Coronavirus: Cases and deaths double over past six weeks in the Americas

Health agency says young people driving spread of Covid-19 in the Americas; around the world, more young people are testing positive

Merchants protest against new lockdowns imposed in Bogota, Colombia, on Aug 24, 2020.
Merchants protest against new lockdowns imposed in Bogota, Colombia, on Aug 24, 2020.PHOTO: AFP


MEXICO CITY • Young people are driving the spread of the novel coronavirus in the Americas, the head of the Pan American Health Organisation (Paho) said yesterday, noting that both deaths and caseloads have doubled in the region over the past six weeks.

Briefing reporters on a webcast, Dr Carissa Etienne chastised governments that have rushed economic reopenings despite data that shows a worsening pandemic.

"This is not a good sign. Wishing the virus away will not work," she said, detailing what she described as a "real disconnect" between the relaxation of containment measures and the continuing spread of the virus.

The Paho is the Washington-based Americas arm of the UN World Health Organisation.

Since last month, coronavirus cases in the Americas have more than doubled to about 12 million confirmed infections, while deaths have shot up by roughly the same rate to some 450,000, according to Paho data.

Dr Etienne said that "the vast majority" of reported Covid-19 cases in the Americas have been among those between the ages of 19 and 59, but that almost 70 per cent of deaths have been among individuals who are 60 years old or older.

"This indicates that younger people are primarily driving the spread of the disease in our region," she said.

A recent uptick in cases in several Caribbean nations including the Bahamas is also a growing concern, said Dr Etienne, with new infections driven by not only tourism but also returning residents.

Overall, governments should base their reopening decisions on the best available data, and expand testing and contract tracing programmes to better identify and control spikes in cases, she said.

Six of the world's 10 most affected countries are in the Americas, said Dr Etienne, pointing to the United States, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Argentina.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 27, 2020, with the headline 'Cases and deaths double over past six weeks '. Subscribe