New cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continue to rise in the Caribbean region over the weekend, following confirmed cases in, Dominican Republic, St Martin, and Saint-Barthélemy.
The two overseas French territories, St Martin and Saint-Barthélemy confirmed three cases of COVID-19 on Sunday (March 1).
Hours later, in the Dominican Republic, health officials also confirmed a case of COVID-19 in an Italian tourist, who has since been placed in isolation after arriving on the island a week prior. According to reports from local media, a French tourist is also being quarantined.
Anticipating the new frontier in the fight against the deadly outbreak, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) upgraded the region’s risk of transmission from low to ‘moderate to high’.
In a statement last Friday (Feb. 28), CARPHA Executive Director, Dr. Joy St. John urged national health authorities of member states to shift their mindset from preparedness to readiness and rapid response and continue to do all that is necessary to strengthen their capacity to respond to possible importation of cases.
Caribbean countries were also encouraged to increase their capacity for surveillance and to adapt their national pandemic preparedness plans to this current situation with COVID-19, as a matter of urgency.
“We stand ready to provide support and guidance to member states on how to strengthen their health systems response should there be importation and any subsequent person-to-person transmission in the Caribbean. We are currently working with regional partners to develop a CARICOM Regional Plan to manage the COVID-19 outbreak,” said St. John.
Brazil, Mexico and Ecuador have also confirmed cases of COVID-19 across Latin America as the outbreak begins its spread outside of the Wuhan, China epicentre.
As of Monday, March 2, the novel coronavirus has been confirmed in over 60 countries and territories globally—with an estimated 89,700 cases. The death toll for the new viral contagion hovers around 3,200, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
UPDATE: A previous version of this article erroneously disclosed Guadeloupe had confirmed cases. The three suspected cases were confirmed to be negative.