The World Health Organization (WHO) has upgraded the risk level for the coronavirus (COVID 19) to very high for the Caribbean as reports emerge of confirmed cases of the virus in St. Martin and St. Barts.
Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dominican Dr. Carissa Etienne, revealed during a press conference following a meeting of CARICOM leaders over the weekend, that so far, 60 countries in the world have reported confirmed cases of the virus,
“In the region of the Americas, we have cases in the United States [88 cases as of Monday, March 2] and Canada . There were 2 cases reported in Brazil. We now have 6 in Ecuador, 3 cases in the Dominican Republic, 4 cases in Mexico, two cases in St. Martin and I case in St. Barts. Many of the cases are related to the outbreak in Italy,” Dr. Etienne said. ” As of Friday [Feb 28], WHO has upgraded the risk level for all countries as very high. WHO has fallen short of naming this outbreak a pandemic but it is expected that very soon, there will be a naming of the pandemic.”
The PAHO official said that regarding the outlook for the CARICOM region, there is a high likelihood there will be cases in the CARICOM region as is already manifested in St. Martin.
“WHO does have great concern for the situation in some countries particularly those countries with weak health systems,” Dr. Etienne stated.
She said some useful information that has come from a WHO mission that went to China indicates that some 80% of the infections were mild, 14% considered severe and 5% very severe requiring Intensive Care Unit and ventilation. The duration of the illness in mild cases is generally about two weeks and severe cases, about three to six weeks, requiring ICU and ventillation for up to forty days.
“Age groups less than 19 years we’ve seen that the disease is very mild and infrequent. Only about 2.4% of children under 19 were reflected in the number of cases…for a majority of the cases, we’ve noted that it has been worse for persons with underlying conditions – cardiovascular, diabetes, hypertension, chronic respiratory diseases and the age group most affected is the age group over 80 years,” Dr. Etienne noted. “And generally, there were more males infected than females.”
She mentioned a number of countries in the Caribbean with the capacity to test for COVID 19 virus, including Suriname, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Dominica, Jamaica, Belize, Bahamas and Haiti. These countries also include Martinique and French Guyana, Curacao and Aruba and St. Martin and the British territories of Cayman and Bermuda.
“We believe that there is some capacity in the region but there is work that is necessary to ensure maximum capacity in the Caribbean region,” Dr. Etienne adding that PAHO’s work in the region is to strengthen member states capacity to detect, to contain and to manage cases.
According to the latest available figures, as of today (Monday 3nd March) more than 89,000 people have been infected with the COVID 19 worldwide and the death toll has topped 3,000.