NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director Dr Carissa F Etienne yesterday called for public health measures against the spread of COVID-19 to be redoubled while countries in the region are awaiting vaccines.

Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director Dr Carissa Etienne speaks during the weekly COVID-19 press briefing on Wednesday, January 27, 2021. (FILE PHOTO)

“This pandemic has brought a triple crisis throughout our region as it has ravaged our health systems, fractured our social protection and destabilized our economies,” she said during PAHO’s weekly press briefing on COVID.

“The loss of one million people from this virus should serve as an urgent call that we must do more to protect ourselves and each other from getting sick.

“This includes strong calls to action to reinforce the public health measures that are needed now in each of the places that are seeing outbreaks.

“We need to redouble our efforts to reduce the number of new cases of COVID-19 and subsequent deaths.”

The PAHO director’s comments come as the government last night passed a resolution to extend the state of emergency to May 23.

The extension of the emergency orders authorize the competent authority — the prime minister — to continue existing emergency measures to mitigate spread of the virus.

Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis has argued that such powers are necessary, despite low COVID numbers, so that The Bahamas does not let its guard down in the COVID fight; while opposition members and other members of the public have hit back that the powers are no longer necessary.

Meanwhile, vaccines are expected to arrive in-country by the second quarter of this year.

Etienne yesterday noted: “Broad access to vaccines represents our way out of this pandemic, but while supplies are limited, we need to focus on preventing new infections now to keep the virus under control.”

She added: “As COVID vaccines are rolled out over the coming months, we need health systems to track vaccinations and prioritize those most at risk of severe illness, like the elderly and our health workers so we can reduce demand on our hospitals.”

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