“Now that non-essential air travel is resuming across the region, several countries are reporting spikes in cases.”
PAHO director Carissa Etienne
(CMR) As Cayman inches closer to reopening its borders the Turks and Caicos (TCI) are struggling to contain the coronavirus and was recently highlighted by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) during one of its weekly updates on the spread of the virtual in the region. PAHO has shared that it is concerned about new covid19 infections as Caribbean countries reopen their borders.
PAHO director Dr. Carisss Etienne made mention of her concerns last week Wednesday at a press conference. Her comments were made as deaths in the regions have doubled in the past seven weeks and the Bahamas reported a 60 per cent increase in their number of cases several weeks ago.
She stressed the importance of reinforcing contact tracing and data management especially as reopening continues. PAHO said despite the rise in cases in the Americas, countries have gradually relaxed restrictions, resumed commerce and some have reopened schools.
She noted that:
“In far too many places, there seems to be a disconnect between the policies being implemented and what the epidemiological curves tell us. This is not a good sign. Wishing the virus away will not work; it will only lead to more cases, as we’ve seen over these past six weeks.”
She commented that the spread of the disease appears to be primarily linked to younger people and notes that the “virus will remain with us for years to come”.
The situation in TCI is a prime example that being a small island nation does not guarantee success in containing the spread. In fact, TCI Health Minister Edwin Astwood confirmed that one super spreader infected at least 12 individuals who then infected 11 more persons.
Residents also appear to not be cooperating with authorities for contact tracing, mask-wearing and social distancing and other containment measures. The territory has a population of some 40,000 residents and now has 641 cases with over half of those being active and five deaths. The government continues to say it is trying to strike a balance between keeping its tourism-based economy going and keeping the virus at bay. The virus has quickly spread from Providenciales, Parrot Cay, North Caicos, South Caicos, and Grand Turk.
The government is hesitant to shut back down to international tourists but may implement inter-island travel restrictions in hope of protecting the 4 remaining islands that have not yet confirmed any positive cases.
Encouraging countries to plan for the long term Etienne said:
“Without a vaccine, it’s going to be with us for years. This will not be a fight we win once – but one that will go several rounds. That’s why we need to apply lessons from places that have controlled the virus and let data guide our actions.”