PAHO urges the Caribbean to be ready to respond to imported cases of Covid-19

by March 8th, 2020

The Pan American Health Organization, PAHO, is urging countries in the Americas including the Caribbean to be ready to respond to imported cases of the new Coronavirus-Covid-19.

They are also being told to prepare for the possibility of localized outbreaks or even transmission, given the rapid arrival of Covid-19.

PAHO is urging countries to focus on containing the virus, saving lives by ensuring that health workers are protected, and that the sector is prepared to care for patients, and reducing transmission through multi-sectoral actions and measures.

It said up to Friday, (March 6) 14 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean had reported confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

According to PAHO, it is working intensively with countries that have the weakest health systems. The organization has worked with member states to strengthen surveillance activities to ensure the early detection of possible imported cases of Covid-19, and to ensure that health services are prepared.

PAHO has also trained and equipped 29 laboratories throughout the region to carry out diagnostic testing for Covid-19 and has also developed a tool that enables hospitals to analyze their preparedness to handle cases.

PAHO Director Carissa f. Etienne, said there are three possible situations of Covid-19, that countries of the region may face clusters of cases following importation; large outbreaks in “closed spaces” such as care homes, prisons, military camps, mass gatherings; and mass community transmission, which is more likely to occur during flu season.

To address these situation, Dr. Etienne said the action that can be taken: include contain the virus following its introduction through the detection and isolation of cases and contact tracing; work with the health sector to save lives through the protection of health workers and the organization of services to respond to a possible influx of critical patients; and to slow transmission through a multisectoral approach, working with the education and transportation sectors, as well as civil society and others in order to determine public measures that will be activated if necessary, including school closure, cancellation of mass gatherings, teleworking and others.

Meantime, Deputy Director of PAHO Dr. Jarbas Barbosa said “it is very likely that there will be growth in the number of cases and the number of countries registering cases because they will receive travelers.

He emphasized that “surveillance must go beyond travelers because cases will most likely be identified in health services.”