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BRASILIA, Brazil, Thurs. Oct 8, 2020 (Reuters) – The World Health Organization is concerned about spikes in COVID-19 cases in 11 Caribbean states, that have moved from moderate to intense transmission, its regional director Carissa Etienne said on Wednesday.

“While Brazil and the U.S. remain significant drivers of new cases in our region, we’re concerned by spikes in cases – including in places that had effectively managed outbreaks, like Cuba and Jamaica. In fact, over the past 60 days, 11 countries and territories in the Caribbean have moved from moderate to intense transmission, which is a concerning development as countries reopen airspace,” she told a news briefing Wednesday.  

Jamaica now has over 7,100 cases of COVID-19 and 123 deaths while Cuba has 5,883 and also 123 deaths.

Territories in the French and Dutch Caribbean have also seen spikes.

But the good news is that rates of severe COVID-19 cases have fallen across the Americas and fewer people are being hospitalized needing intensive care, she said in a virtual briefing from Washington with other Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) directors.

There have been over 17 million cases and more than 574,000 deaths due to COVID-19 in the Americas, which has half of all cases and more than half of all deaths globally.

Brazil and the United States continue to be most deadly outbreaks in the world, but transmission remains very active in the region as a whole where countries are suffering recurrent spikes in cases.

“More than half a million children and adolescents in our region have been infected and these numbers continue to rise,” she said. “Many of them are unaware they’re infected because they have mild or no symptoms.”

The lower demand for intensive care bed in hospitals is due in part to growing knowledge of the virus and how to manage critically ill patients, Etienne said.

The pandemic has exacerbate inequalities across gender, income levels and race, she said.

In the United States, Black, Hispanic and Native American populations are three times as likely to contract COVID-19 as their white counterparts, and five times as likely to be hospitalized and twice more likely to die from the virus. In the Amazon areas of Colombia and Brazil, indigenous people are ten times more likely to contract COVID-19 than other groups, according to the WHO.

Migrants are also more exposed to the virus, and PAHO is helping governments in Ecuador, Costa Rica, Brazil and Mexico design ways to ensure migrants have access to the food, health care and mental health support, the regional WHO office said.

(Reporting by Anthony Boadle Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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