Hospitalizations and deaths among young people are increasing as the COVID-19 pandemic accelerates in the Americas, Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), warned on Wednesday.
"Adults of all ages, including young people, are becoming seriously ill and many of them are dying," said Etienne during PAHO's weekly briefing.
PAHO has reported that between December 2020 and March 2021, mortality rates in Brazil doubled among children under 39 years of age, quadrupled for people aged 40 to 50 years old, and tripled for those aged 50 to 60 years old.
"This is tragic and the consequences are dire for our families, societies and future," Etienne said.
"If infections continue to increase at this rate, we expect that in the next three months countries in our region will have to maintain and even further increase their intensive care unit (ICU) bed capacity," she calculated.
Countries need to hire more health care workers and specialized personnel, she said. Meanwhile, current health care workers must be supported "after operating in 'crisis mode' for so long."
In total, more than 1.3 million people were infected with COVID-19 in the Americas in the last week and more than 36,000 died from complications related to the disease.
"Nearly 40% of all COVID-19 deaths reported last week occurred in our region. Today, more Latin American countries than ever are reporting more than 1,000 COVID-19 cases per day," Etienne said.
Food Banks are on a race to help people in the region.
PAHO is leading the mission in the region.
She reported that infections are increasing rapidly in the Guianas, Argentina, and Colombia, "where weekly case counts are five times higher than this time last year." In Central America, Guatemala is experiencing a significant increase in infections, while Costa Rica is reporting record infections.
Puerto Rico and Cuba are leading infections in the Caribbean, although cases are also increasing on many smaller islands. Nearly 70% of all COVID-19 cases in Anguilla have been reported in the last 10 days. Following the eruption of the La Soufrière volcano, cases are increasing in St. Vincent and the Grenadines among internally displaced persons.
PAHO also recently reported that the capacity of the region's health services is collapsing and has asked wealthier nations to donate their surplus vaccines to the region.
Since the beginning of 2021, several countries 🌎 in our region are reporting an increase in cases in the younger population, linked to increased exposure and no vaccination 💉 in these groups. This has led to an increase in hospitalizations 🏥 @DirOPSPAHO#COVID19— PAHO/WHO (@pahowho) April 28, 2021
Latin American countries are in a race to vaccinate their populations, while experiencing a worrying situation, according to Reuters' COVID-19 global cases tracker.
According to data from UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency, Latin America and the Caribbean is one of the most affected regions by the pandemic, with increased unemployment rates, and an economic recovery that is losing dynamism due to the unfavorable evolution of the covid pandemic and the uncertainty about the pace of vaccination in the coming months and its effectiveness in the face of outbreaks of more aggressive strains, according to a recent report from the Bank of Spain.
Etienne said that vaccine supplies "are still weak in the face of the urgent need for more doses. That's why we urge countries with surplus doses to consider donating a significant portion to the Americas, where these life-saving vaccines are desperately needed and will be used promptly."
Spain recently announced a donation of 7.5 million doses of surplus COVID-19 vaccines to Latin America and the Caribbean, becoming the first country to support Global Citizen’s VAX LIVE campaign. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced his country's commitment, corresponding to at least 5% to 10% of the total amount of vaccines Spain receives through 2021.
"Our health workers have made extraordinary personal sacrifices and persevered even in the face of the most difficult circumstances. We owe them everything we can to keep ourselves and our communities safe, including vaccination when it is our turn," Etienne said.