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PAHO: Easing of restrictions should be done “cautiously”

EyeWitness News Local May 6, 2020 at 3:41 am Royston Jones Jr.

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director Dr Carissa Etienne said government seeking to reopen the country to balance saving lives and the economy must do so gradually and cautiously. “There is no recipe and no one size fits all when it comes to that decision-making process,” Etienne said during a broadcasted PAHO press conference with regional stakeholders. “To the process itself related to adjustment of the measures or to its timing; under the circumstances and in order not to reverse the benefits of the sacrifices that people have made so far the decision to transition from lockdown should be weighed carefully.” She continued: “I believe that ultimately, the overarching principles that’s underpinning any decision making on this process is how do we find a balance between saving lives and protecting the economy — in other words, between slowing transmission; prevent overwhelming on health services; and minimizing the risk of critical socio-economic damage. The Bahamas has moved to the second phase of the government’s six-phased plan to reopening the economy on Monday. The country has been closed since March 27 due to the pandemic, with only essential services and businesses operating. Phase ‘1B’ allows businesses with capacity to provide delivery and curbside services to operate with strict social distancing protocols between 8am and 5pm. Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis said the phased re-opening is aimed at striking the right balance between “permitting some level of further commerce to resume while still maintaining a vigilant national position” against COVID-19. Yesterday, Etienne said with few exceptions, countries in the Americas have implemented measures in a timely manner. “Most of the countries are currently experiencing transmission scenarios that allow health services to be able to cope and operate with their capacity,” she said. “So, maintaining the current level of transmission and possibly further reducing it should represent the overall objective of current, national response efforts.” Preparedness and exit measures Director of the Department of Communicable Diseases Dr Marcos Espinal said while he feels the region is prepared to handle the virus, it must seek to improve on that preparedness. “We have to continue to reinforce measures, continue to assess the data as Dr Barbosa said; the indicators, new cases, deaths — because it is a process that takes time and we’ve seen and will see that since this began in March in Latin America, May will be a critical month and it is very important that we don’t stop training. It does not matter where the epi-center is. “We saw it in Asia. We saw it in Europe. We have to continue with the mitigation measures.” Herd immunity is an approach some countries have taken amid the pandemic. A team of pandemic experts predicted in a report released last Thursday that the virus will continue to spread for another 18 months until between 60 and 70 percent of a population has been infected. A modeling study from the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota projected that around 70 percent of people need to be immune in order to bring halt the virus. However, the theory has not sat well with some. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called the approach a “death sentence”. Yesterday, Espinal said the countries using the immunity approach compared to other similar countries in Europe, the deaths remain higher in the countries using the immunity approach. “So, the mitigation measures and the containment measures work and must be reinforced continuously and as soon as we are going to reactivate, it has to be gradually and with careful monitoring to avoid a second wave or peak,” he said.

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