There is a high possibility that countries within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) will be affected by the novel coronavirus COVID-19.
This is according to Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Dr. Carrissa Etienne, who reported on global and regional statistics on the virus at a press conference held after the 8th Special Emergency Meeting of the Caribbean Community, at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
Noting there were already cases in the Caribbean, Dr. Etienne outlined: “In the region of the Americas, we have cases in the United States of America and Canada; there were two cases reported in Brazil, six in Ecuador, three in the Dominican Republic, four in Mexico, two in St. Maarten and one in St. Bart’s.
“Many of the cases are related to the outbreak in Italy. As of Friday, [February 28, 2020], the World Health Organization (WHO) has upgraded the risk level for all countries to very high. The WHO has fallen short of naming this outbreak a pandemic, but it is expected that very soon [it will be named] a pandemic. The outlook for the CARICOM region, therefore: there is a high likelihood that we will see cases in this sub region, it is already here, we have cases in St. Maarten.”
The Director of PAHO also mentioned that several Caribbean countries are equipped to test for COVID-19. They are Suriname, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Dominica, Jamaica, Belize, the Bahamas, Haiti, Martinique, French Guiana, Curacao, Aruba, St. Maarten and the British Territories of Cayman Islands and Bermuda.
Nonetheless, Dr. Etienne expressed that the WHO was greatly concerned for countries with weak health care systems. She pointed out PAHO’s work includes strengthening member states’ capacity to detect, contain and 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,” she said.
Dr. Etienne also reported findings from a mission to China, disclosing that “80 per cent of the cases were mild. Fourteen per cent of the infections were considered to be severe, and five per cent very severe requiring ICU and ventilation”.
She noted that the duration of illness for mild cases was approximately two weeks, but between three to six weeks for severe cases, some of which required intensive care and ventilation for up to forty days.
“In the age group less than 19 years, we’ve seen that the disease is very mild and infrequent. Only about 2.4 per cent of children under 19 were reflected in the number of cases. For the case fatality rate, it depends on the intensity or the capacity to manage, but the case fatality rate in Wuhan province was 5.8 per cent, and in the rest of China, 0.7 per cent.
“For the majority of the cases, we’ve noted that it has been worse for persons with underlying conditions: cardiovascular, diabetes, hypertension and chronic respiratory diseases. The age group most affected is the age group over 80 years. Generally, there were more males infected than females,” she stated.
As of March 1, 2020, 60 countries have reported cases, while globally there were 86,933 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 2,977 deaths.