Director of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) Dr Carissa Etienne says that the Caribbean is approaching its first 10 infections as six cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) have been confirmed.
Etienne, informing CARICOM heads of state via a video call, said that the Dominican Republic and parts of the French Caribbean account for three cases respectively as of Sunday, March 1.
“There are three cases in the Dominican Republic…two cases in St Martin and one case in St Bart’s [Saint-Barthélemy],” she disclosed at the emergency COVID-19 meeting in Guyana.
Many of the cases are related to the ongoing outbreak in Italy, Etienne added. Travellers returning from France have also contributed to the coronavirus’ introduction to the Caribbean, according to media reports in the French dependencies.
Elsewhere in Latin America, PAHO indicated that Mexico has confirmed four COVID-19 infections, Brazil recorded two cases, while Ecuador reported six.
Addressing the CARICOM meeting as the region confirmed its first cases, Etienne cautioned against panic, as she assured that most countries and territories have the capability to test for the novel coronavirus.
“It is important that we note, in the Caribbean, several countries have the capacity to test for COVID-19. These include Suriname, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Dominica, Jamaica, Belize, Bahamas, and Haiti,” Etienne said.
“Our work in the region, as PAHO, is to strengthen member states’ capacity to detect, contain and to manage cases. We believe there is some capacity in the region, but there is work that is necessary to ensure maximum capacity,” she added.
French territories Martinique, St Martin and French Guiana; Dutch islands Curacao and Aruba; as well as British-governed Cayman Islands and Bermuda have also been provided with the requisite capacity to test for COVID-19, according to the PAHO director.
Guadeloupe avoided a scare on Saturday (Feb. 29) after samples from a family on the island, suspected of contracting COVID-19, were confirmed negative.