PAHO concerned about Caribbean’s ability to deal with coronavirus outbreak

The Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) is expressing some level of concern at the region’s ability to deal with an outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) that has claimed nearly 3,000 lives globally.

Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton examines one of the isolation facilities in Jamaica.

PAHO Director, Dominican-born Dr Carissa F Etienne, reporting to the eighth Special Emergency meeting of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads of Government and Ministers of Health in Barbados on Sunday night, acknowledged that some countries may have a problem dealing with the virus because of weak health systems.

Etienne said that of the 60 countries that have reported cases worldwide, there are three cases in the Dominican Republic, two cases in St Maarten and one case in St Barts.

“Our work in the region is to strengthen member states’ capacity to detect, to contain and to manage cases.”

— PAHO Director, Dr Carissa F Etienne

“The outlook for the CARICOM region, therefore, there is a high likelihood that we will see cases in the sub-region. It’s already here,” she said via video conference at the end of the meeting press conference.

“The World Health Organization does have great concern for the situation in some countries, particularly those countries with weak health systems,” Dr Etienne said, adding that in the Caribbean, several countries have the capacity to test for COVID-19.

“These include Barbados, Suriname, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica, Jamaica, Belize, Bahamas and Haiti. Martinique, French Guiana, Curacao, Aruba and St Martin and the British territories of Cayman and Bermuda also have capacity for testing.

“Our work in the region is to strengthen member states’ capacity to detect, to contain and to manage cases. 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.”

Etienne said as of Sunday, there were 86,983 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with a total of 2,977 deaths.