The Americas saw a 23 percent jump in cases last week, although most cases were recorded in the US and Canada.
New coronavirus infections rose 23 percent in the United States last week, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said, warning that the region may be on track to follow trends in Europe, where several countries are closing in amid increasing incidence.
PAHO Director Carissa Etienne said there were 880,583 new COVID-19 infections in the Americas and more than 15,000 deaths in the past week.
The majority of new cases, Etienne said, were driven by increasing infections in the United States and Canada. While in Central America, she said a 37 percent reduction in new infections.
During this pandemic, Europe was a window. Into the future for the Americas.
– PAHO / WIE (@pahowho) 24 November 2021
“These trends are telling,” Etienne said in a weekly news release. “Even though COVID cases have dropped significantly in the last few months, COVID transmission is still active in our region, so every time we lower our guard, the virus gains momentum,” she said.
The update came as Europe – widely regarded as a forerunner of global trends in the pandemic – introduces new restrictions as several countries record sky-high rates of new infections.
“Through this pandemic, Europe was a window to the future for the Americans,” Etienne said. “We have seen time and time again how the dynamics of infection in Europe are reflected here a few weeks later.”
The stakes are particularly high for the US, a country that has already recorded more than 770,000 deaths from COVID – more than any other country in the world. Brazil comes second with more than 600,000 deaths, according to a count held by Johns Hopkins University.
Like the US the colder winter months and the holiday season, where many Americans are expected to travel and hold large family gatherings, officials are increasingly concerned that the country will once again begin to see a rapid spread of new infections, which will overwhelm hospitals.
Local media reported that air travel is expected to approach pre-pandemic levels ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday Thursday.
According to official data, coronavirus cases increased by 16 percent in the US compared to last week, and hospitalizations increased by 5 percent. Meanwhile, deaths have dropped by 2.4 percent.
Etienne said every country in South America except Brazil, Suriname and Venezuela is reporting increasing cases, with Ecuador and Paraguay seeing the highest jumps.
Meanwhile, the island of Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean island is experiencing its highest COVID-19 figures ever and hospitals have reported that it is almost full capacity.
Etienne said the rising cases in Europe as well as in the Americas were largely due to the relaxation of public health measures, the Delta variant, as well as “significant pockets of unvaccinated people”.
Vaccine resistance fueled by incorrect information, as well as limited access to doses in the poorer countries in the region, hampered vaccination efforts in the region.
Across Latin America and the Caribbean, 51 percent of people have been fully vaccinated, she said, adding that 19 countries have not reached the 40 percent mark.
PAHO has set the goal of vaccinating 70 percent of the population of each country in the Americas by mid-2022.