Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. 05 January, 2023: Almost 3 years since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in the Caribbean Region and the COVID-19 outbreak was designated a pandemic, COVID-19 cases are still occurring in our communities. In light of this, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) is encouraging Ministries of Health to maintain surveillance of severe acute respiratory illness; hospitalisations and deaths, PCR testing and gene sequencing of severe hospitalised cases; and hospital intensive care to avoid deaths.
The Agency is also urging the general public to safeguard against the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses through personal responsibility, that is practising cough etiquette and mask wearing according to national protocols.
CARPHA Executive Director, Dr. Joy St. John pointed out that many of the new sub-variants of Omicron have been circulating in the Caribbean region since last year, as evidenced by the gene sequencing results from samples submitted by Member States to CARPHA.
Dr. St. John stated, “We are aware that more people are self diagnosing through the use of rapid antigen tests and so the accurate incidence of COVID-19 is hard to assess”. She added, “There is reduced reporting of hospitalisations and death due to COVID-19. However, other viruses like respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) have resulted in hospitalisations in the latter half of 2022.
Dr. St. John also stated, “As we resume economic activity and school post Christmas, and commence various festivities, it is critical that people protect themselves using the measures emphasised during the Pandemic, including good hand hygiene, social distancing, mask wearing in crowded spaces, get tested when having symptoms and more importantly, get vaccinated or boosted”.
It is noteworthy that internationally, especially in northern countries, the flu season has been particularly harsh with hospitals being overwhelmed with cases. Regionally, there has also been a rise in influenza and other respiratory viruses, which can lead to severe illness (and in some cases death) in the old, very young and other vulnerable groups. COVID-19 hospitalisations still occur and persons are still dying. However, the rates are substantially reduced from the peak of the circulation of the delta variant.
CARPHA is assuring the public that WHO-approved vaccines for COVID-19 and influenza are proving effective at preventing severe disease, hospitalisation and death.
There is much disinformation circulating about vaccines, COVID-19 in particular, and how they work. Factual, easy-to-read information is available at this WHO resource Vaccines Explained