COVID-19 cases in America surpass 100 million

The omicron variant has now been reported in 19 countries and territories in the Americas. In the United States, omicron accounted for an estimated 73% of new infections detected last week

OPS / Argentina  -   A woman takes a COVID-19 test in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

America has surpassed 100 million cases of COVID-19, according to the latest epidemiological data from the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), following a 36% increase in cases in North America in the past week and a decline in parts of Central and South America.

The United States is the most infected country (201,750 on 21 December, the latest data provided by PAHO) followed far behind by Canada (11,309) and Argentina (9336).

In South America, there was an overall decrease in cases of 10.7% and a 6.3% decrease in deaths. However, Bolivia reported a sharp increase in cases, while Ecuador and Argentina also saw a rise in infections. In Central America, countries continued the downward trend, with a 10.8% decrease.

In the Caribbean, infections increased by 16%. In Trinidad and Tobago, cases continue to rise and in Barbados and the Cayman Islands, although still high, cases are down from the previous week.

OPS / Argentina - Health workers test for COVID-19 at homes in Buenos Aires, Argentina

The omicron variant has now been reported in 19 countries and territories on the continent: Argentina, Bermuda, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Cayman Islands, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Puerto Rico, St. Maarten, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United States. In the United States, omicron accounted for an estimated 73% of SARS-CoV-2 virus sequences in the past week.

Prevention measures are effective against Omicron

PAHO continues to recommend vaccination and measures to reduce the risk of transmission, such as wearing masks, keeping a physical distance from others, washing hands frequently and avoiding crowded spaces, especially indoors.

"These measures are effective against all variants, including omicron," PAHO director Carissa Etienne said recently. "Countries should maintain their public health measures to limit transmission of the virus and adjust them according to local transmission risks," she added.

In terms of COVID-19 vaccine distribution, more than 868 million doses have been administered in Latin America and the Caribbean. To date, about 57.3 per cent of the population in Latin America and the Caribbean has completed their COVID-19 vaccination schedule.

PAHO estimates that most countries in the region will meet or exceed the WHO target of vaccinating 40 per cent of their eligible population by the end of 2021. However, current projections indicate that Haiti, Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Guatemala, St. Lucia and Grenada may not meet the target.

So far, more than 75 million doses of vaccines have been delivered to 33 countries in the region through the COVAX Mechanism, including 22 million donated doses. In the coming hours, Nicaragua will receive 500,000 doses donated by Japan.

PAHO's Revolving Fund has been in charge of the logistics of these deliveries and is also working with countries to purchase vaccines directly from manufacturers.

Globally, 4.1 million new cases and 45,000 deaths were reported during the week of 13-19 December. The omicron variant is found in at least 106 countries.