On Wednesday, Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director Carissa F. Etienne warned there’s no room for complacency in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic and urged people to make smart, safe choices during the holiday season.
The warning came amid record spikes in COVID-19 infections in Europe. In addition, cases rose by 23% in the Americas over the past week.
“As end of year celebrations approach, get vaccinated, keep gatherings small and ensure mask wearing and social distancing, especially indoors,” the PAHO Director urged in a media briefing.
Over the last few weeks, many European countries have reported record numbers of new cases despite high vaccination coverage.
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And Etienne expressed that the relaxation of public health measures combined with pockets of unvaccinated people had created the perfect environment for the virus to spread.
“Throughout this pandemic, Europe has been a window into the future for the Americas,” the PAHO Director observed.
“The future is unfolding before us, and it must be a wakeup call for our region,” she declared.
Countries throughout the Americas are seeing upward trends, particularly in the United States and Canada.
In South America, nearly every country is reporting increased incidences, including in the Southern Cone.
The Caribbean also reports high infection rates, whereas Central America is the only area to have experienced a drop in new infections.
Over half of people in Latin America and the Caribbean are now fully vaccinated against COVID- 19. Still, countries have yet to reach the WHO target of 40% vaccination coverage by the end of 2021.
Despite this, preventative measures are being lifted, including in densely populated areas.
“Every time we lower our guard, the virus gains momentum,” the PAHO Director said, “and threatens our hard-fought gains.”
The PAHO Director said that continued public health measures alongside vaccination are vital in reducing the spread of COVID-19.
These include mask-wearing, social distancing, and avoiding large gatherings, particularly indoors.
“It’s up to all of us to make smart and safe choices this holiday season so we can protect ourselves and each other from this virus,” Etienne stated.