SANTIAGO – Countries in America could see a bigger surge in coronavirus cases than last year, with Brazil, Uruguay and Cuba already suffering more, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Wednesday.
Director Carissa Etienne said the end of summer in the southern hemisphere after holidays when people banded together and cases spread had spiked. She urged citizens to stay home and governments to think carefully before lowering restrictions on movement.
So far this year America has reported over 19.7 million COVID cases and 475,000 deaths, she said.
Vaccines are being rolled out – 124 million people received one dose and 58 million received two, PAHO said.
PAHO deputy director Jarbas Barbosa said another 2.5 million have arrived in the past 30 days through the COVAX vaccine alliance, which has totaled 2.5 million people over the past 30 days.
The vaccine supply “remains our main challenge,” Etienne admitted. The organization “scoured” the globe for more supplies and urged countries to hand over any surpluses.
There are “far too many examples” of vaccination nationalism, she said.
“The current system is hardwired because of inequality and that is not acceptable,” said Etienne.
Currently, Brazil, Peru, Chile and Paraguay are reporting the highest COVID-related death rates, and the recent influx of cases is overwhelming hospitals, PAHO said.
At least one of the three COVID variants has been identified in 32 regional countries, with Brazil’s P1 being in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
PAHO is currently investigating the effects of variants, but Incident Manager Dr. Sylvain Aldighieri noted reports from Brazil that young adults were occupying the hospital intensive care unit in greater numbers than in 2020.
The P1 variant “clearly” contributes to the spread of cases in Brazil, he added.