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Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, Director of the Pan American Health Organisation and WHO Regional Director for the Americas.

PAHO: Recurring COVID-19 outbreaks likely

In the absence of effective treatments or a widely available vaccine,
it is expected that over the next two years in the region of the
Americas, countries will experience recurring COVID-19 outbreaks,
which may be interspersed with periods of limited transmission.

Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, Director of the Pan American Health
Organisation (PAHO) and World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional
Director for the Americas, suggested the above as she delivered the
latest anticipated weekly press briefing on COVID-19.

“We must be realistic about the future. All of us must adjust to a new
way of life and redefine our sense of normal. The question is no
longer, “How do we go back to the way things were before?”, but
rather, “How do we move forward and build a sustainable and effective
outbreak response?” she stated.

Dr. Etienne meanwhile revealed that last week Member States discussed
in the PAHO Executive Committee a resolution that seeks to balance the
triple threat of the pandemic.

“…Our Member States discussed a resolution that seeks to balance the
triple threat this pandemic presents to the health of our people, to
our social welfare and to our national economies. Their
recommendations are not only relevant to the crisis we face today, but
also chart a course to navigate the next 24 months of the pandemic,”
she remarked.

“In the face of a fast-changing pandemic, leadership will make or
break our response. Now is the time for leaders to reach across
political divisions and geographic borders, to rally the support for a
response that is commensurate to this unprecedented crisis. Each
country will need to adjust and coordinate their COVID-19 response
based on increasingly detailed data. Governments will have to make
decisions, considering simultaneously health, economic, and social
indicators. This will allow health officials to understand where
transmission is accelerating, and which groups are at greater risk so
as to better target their efforts” she further commented.

“Flexibility will be key, and public health measures, as well as
social protection efforts, will need to be reviewed regularly, to
minimise the impact of the virus in our societies. The provision of
social, financial, and fiscal protection, especially in communities
heavily dependent on informal economies is critical” Dr. Etienne

The PAHO Director suggested that we will not overcome this crisis,
without addressing the needs of the most vulnerable, those most likely
to fall sick and the least likely to receive care.

 “If we neglect them, we run the risk of the next two years looking
like the past few months. And this should not happen” she said.

She added, “To support effective decision making, we will need timely
and reliable data about the virus’s spread within cities, throughout
provinces and across countries. This information is vital to help
governments identify new outbreaks early and adapt responses in the
face of changing scenarios. While an active risk of transmission
remains, we must also prioritise early detection of suspect cases,
laboratory testing, contact tracing and quarantine as the foundation
of a targeted and sustainable strategy to control COVID-19. This is
now more important than ever. But ensuring this happens at the level
and to the scale that our region needs, will require investment in
human resources, supplies, improving surveillance, as well as the
development and rapid adoption of new tools”.

“COVID-19 will only be defeated through concerted regional cooperation
and action. Though we rejoice when one country successfully flattens
its COVID-19 epidemic curve, the risk of re-emergence will always
remain, unless we flatten the curve regionally and globally. PAHO is
committed to continuing to serve the people of our region with the
guidance and support they have long relied on to ensure that together,
we can defeat this common enemy” the PAHO headed concluded.

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