Even after peak, vulnerable groups could remain susceptible to COVID-19
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Centers for Disease and Prevention representative Dr Emily Zielinski-Gutierrez while there has been a much higher level of laboratory capacity in the region compared to a decade ago, jurisdictions in the Caribbean face a large number of COVID-19 related-challenges.
However, Zielinski-Gutierrez, the Central America regional director and program director for the division of Global Human Protection, said the region has strong preparedness plans in place.
“Certainly, if you look at some of the baseline challenges to health with continuing infectious disease threats as well as increasing chronic disease threats, and then law COVID over these existing risks and the challenges currently with some reduced health capacity at some hospitals in order to ensure that they are effect the best infection prevention and control measures, it means that we need to think about how we serve those routine needs,” the CDC representative said during a teleconference call with regional reporters.
“So, I think in ministries of health throughout the region you see really strong preparedness, plans that are in place, complex guidelines that are being issued to deal with things like some of the new drugs that are becoming available and discussed in the media and what will countries use as an approach to deciding about their use in trials or otherwise in countries.
“But nonetheless, the need to have enough beds, have enough PPEs, have enough trained professionals is something that’s being confronted in each of these countries as well.”
There have been 80 cases of the virus in The Bahamas — 64 in New Providence, eight in Bimini and seven in Grand Bahama.
Eleven people have died, giving the country a case fatality rate of just over 13 percent.
The global standard is around four percent.
Health officials said this figure is expected to be reduced as additional cases are confirmed due to expanded testing.
However, this expansion has been hinged on resource availability, including stores of swabs.
There have been over 151,000 cases in Central and Latin America and the Caribbean, and over 7,500 deaths.
“We can’t forget that there’s a person behind every one of these numbers,” Zielinski-Gutierrez said.
“CDC’s top priority in working in our work with the United States and around the world is to prevent illness and prevent loss of life.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Department of State Deputy Assistant Secretary Jon Piechowski, who oversees diplomacy in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, said the U.S. government has allocated more than $64 million to more than 30 countries help them fight the coronavirus.
He did not provide a breakdown of the funds, and how much has been earmarked for The Bahamas.
He noted American businesses, NGOs, and faith-based charities donations in the fight against COVID-19 have been estimated at nearly $3 billion dollars.
On Monday, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis outlined the five phased steps to easing restrictions and returning to the “new normal”, including opening up of the borders, though no timeline was provided for each phase.
As part of the first phase, $11 million will be allocated to the health sector, $4 million for food assistance and social support, and $10 million will go to temporary unemployment benefits through NIB for the self-employed in tourism.
Speaking to the way forward after cases have peaked, Piechowski the threat of the virus could continue, particularly among vulnerable people who have not been infected.
He said this differs for each country, and multidisciplinary response is required, which requirement the involvement of labs; epidemiology; and informatics for data, among other long-term measures.
He said: “So, we are looking at a kind of full response that engages different disciplines within public health, within the health sector that will continue over a longer period of time as we figure out and hone the interventions going forward.”
Globally, there have been more than 2.8 million confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Nearly 200,000 people have died.