There were 22,000 deaths from the coronavirus throughout the Americas last week alone. That was 9% higher than the previous week, said Dr. Carissa Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
The Americas also saw a daily average of more than 100,000 new cases last week – nearly 20% higher than the previous week.
Speaking at PAHO’s weekly briefing on the pandemic, Etienne said there have now been 267,000 coronavirus deaths across the Americas, and the trends of infection were accelerating in several US states as well as much of Central and South America.
She went on to say there was a concerning trend of infections reaching areas that had not been much affected until now, just as people were becoming fatigued with precautions and restrictions on their movement. The pandemic, she said, was moving from some of the biggest cities to smaller towns that had fewer facilities such as intensive care.
Two months ago, US accounted for about 75% of all cases in the Americas, Etienne said. Now more than 50% of cases were being registered in Latin America and the Caribbean, with Brazil alone accounting for a quarter of cases.
Etienne expressed concern about unsafe working conditions and the lack of protective equipment for frontline health workers in much of the region. She reiterated the need for better tracing of the virus. The impact of the virus had been worsened by inequality, political division and under-investment in health care.
She predicted the next six months would not be any easier than the last: many hospitals were approaching capacity and the treatment of other conditions and diseases was being disrupted. Etienne noted that maternal mortality was increasing, as access to prenatal services was becoming more difficult.
She also expressed concern that the treatment of other health problems common in Latin America – from tuberculosis to diabetes – was being affected by problems in securing supplies and accessing health facilities.