Health Ministers commit to maintain, expand sustained actions to fight COVID-19 pandemic

Health ministers from countries in the Americas yesterday committed to maintain and expand sustained actions to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, and asked the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to continue supporting them in their fight to control it.

PAHO “assumes that the Region will experience recurring epidemic waves and outbreaks interspersed with periods of low-level transmission over the next 24 months, pending development of a safe, efficacious, and equitably accessible COVID-19 vaccine and achievement of appropriate population coverage,” said a report presented to the 58th Directing Council.

In a resolution passed during a virtual session, the countries requested that PAHO Director Carissa F. Etienne “continue providing evidence-based technical cooperation to Member States, promote innovation and sharing of experiences, to resume and maintain uninterrupted operations and interventions of the health system in all relevant aspects necessary for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The ministers specifically highlighted PAHO’s Revolving Fund for Access to Vaccines, and its Regional Revolving Fund for Strategic Public Health Supplies for “improving equitable access to, and appropriate use of, affordable, safe, efficacious and quality vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, biomedical equipment, and personal protective equipment that can improve health outcomes and reduce the impact of the pandemic.”

They also asked PAHO to maintain the regional network for the surveillance of influenza and other respiratory viruses, to expand these through the creation of a Regional Genomic Surveillance Network, and to support countries in engaging with global initiatives, such as the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator, for vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics, as well as other initiatives for the development and access to essential health technologies for COVID-19.

In addition, the countries urged that all comply with the provisions of the International Health Regulations (IHR), in particular those related to the timely submission of information.

During the virtual session, PAHO provided an update on the COVID-19 pandemic and the organization’s response and presented a report with  suggestions “on how to strengthen and support responsive and adaptive health systems in the face of risks from this pandemic so that the health and well-being of societies, as well as social and economic development in the Region, can be sustained.”

Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, PAHO’s Assistant Director, highlighted the impact that the pandemic has had on essential health services, including immunization, with a 24 percent reduction in the number of MMR vaccinations applied. Negative impacts on mental health were also reported by many countries, along with disruptions to services for noncommunicable diseases, although countries have increased telemedicine services to help overcome these disruptions, he said.

Countries must learn from the pandemic by ensuring access to health services, strengthening information systems and advancing the digital transformation in health, to improve social protection systems, and to reduce dependence on imported products, which caused shortages of medical supplies, Barbosa added.

Dr. Ciro Ugarte, who heads PAHO’s Health Emergencies program, said transmission of COVID-19 in the Region of the Americas continues to be very active but there have been improvements in response, including a 99% increase in Intensive Care beds in eight key countries. The deployment of 15 Emergency Medical Teams and creation of 184 alternative medical sites also helped reduce burdens on health systems, Ugarte said.

Key challenges ahead include improving surveillance, rapid response, and expanding capacity for case investigations, along with limited numbers of tests available for national laboratories and limited supplies of personal protective equipment. Dr. Ugarte also underscored the need to have enough staff to maintain essential health services while ensuring safe and decent working conditions, with good infection prevention and control.

Overall, measures like lockdowns and restrictions have worked to flatten the epidemic curve and delay its peak, but “people are getting a false sense of security and we are in danger of losing the advantages we have gained,” Ugarte said, Adjusting restrictive measures is a challenge for countries, requiring leadership and collaboration along with good epidemic intelligence, he said. Ugarte also emphasized that reopening ports to tourism and commerce will be challenging and the health sector has limited input in these decisions, which can affect the course of the pandemic.

An update provided separately by PAHO on the COVID-19 pandemic noted that there were now more than 16.4 million cases reported in the Americas, with more than 550,000 deaths.

The Directing Council of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) brings together ministers of health and high-level delegates from PAHO/WHO member countries to discuss and analyze regional health policies, and to set priorities for technical cooperation and cross-country collaboration.

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  1. To the Government if Antigua, I’m asking for a friend.

    What is the plan to move forward !?! Covid isn’t going anywhere on any particular day!?! So do we keep looking for ways to keep the people locked up? If so, until when…. any particular day in sight !?! Because the numbers have been down to zero for many weeks then increased, then decreased, that’s just how it is and will be, because covid is here… not leaving… it’s something our world now has..: so HOW DO WE DEAL!?! Cause we can’t stay locked up forever… people will all start traveling and life will go on !?!

    Will we continue To have people quarantined for 14 days… many countries have done away with this now that they are understanding covid.

    Many countries have found safe ways to continue daily existence when In Antigua the banks, the financial backbone of our country, still do not have regular hours.

    It seems like most of our resources are going into scaring the public, forcing the public into submission, threatening with fines and jail time just for simply their human existence.

    Maybe Antigua leaders should themselves, find a source of education concerning the transmission of the covid 19 virus, the potency of the virus today, things to do once the virus is contracted, BecUse the fact is, IT IS A VIRUS. You can get it, survive and move on.

    Once the leaders have this education, then maybe they can have zoom constituency meetings or physical constituency meetings over a few nights to educate the public. Following protocols of course.

    This is just a thought. Since it seems like the leaders of the country are stuck back in March 2020, when so much progress has been made in studying the virus and how people can CONTINUE TO LIVE A HEALTHY AND SAFE NEW NORMAL LIFESTYLE.

    Please let the people Of Antigua live A healthy and safe new normal life style void of the constant hysterics, fear, dictatorship behavior and threats being spewed every week by the government to lock up and fine people who are already under employed.

    Antigua’s government insist on driving the fear of God into its citizens by threatening and keeping them isolated from normal life every week.

    We already have God! What we need is efficient governance.

    …. just asking for a friend … smh

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