KINGSTON, April 22 (JIS): Jamaica is expected to be among the regional countries to receive coronavirus (COVID-19) test kits from the latest batch being provided by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
Director of PAHO, Dr. Carissa Etienne, said 4.5 million additional Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test kits are being dispatched to member states across North, Central and South America, and the Caribbean.
“This week, we are dispatching 1.5 million more test kits throughout the region followed by another three million next week, to strengthen [the] laboratory surveillance networks in our member states,” she outlined.
These will be in addition to more than 500,000 already supplied to some 34 countries, the Director indicated during a digital media briefing on Tuesday (April 21).
PAHO indicated that between February 13 and April 15, Jamaica was provided with approximately 19,000 PCR reactions (primers and probes) along with additional material necessary for detecting COVID-19 in samples tested.
The organisation has also provided COVID-19 test training for personnel at the National Influenza Centre, situated at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona Campus, and the National Public Health Laboratory.
The PCR technique is used to amplify trace amounts of DNA located in or on almost any fluid or surface where such may be deposited.
The amplified segments are then compared with those from known sources for verification of the specific pathogen for which testing is being conducted.
Dr. Etienne said PAHO’s provisions form part of efforts to assist member countries and territories, totalling about 52, in accelerating and expanding COVID-19 testing, based on the rapid extent to which the disease has spread regionally and globally.
She informed that as at April 20, the total number of confirmed cases across the region totalled 893,120, of which 42,686 persons have died.
She informed that as at April 20, the total number of confirmed cases across the region totalled 893,120, of which 42,686 persons have died.
The Ministry of Health and Wellness reports that Jamaica’s confirmed cases rose to 233, as at April 21, of which six persons have died, with 27 recovering.
Dr. Etienne argued that as the pandemic continues to impact the region, “it is vital for all countries to actively embrace preventative measures, while preparing for more cases, hospitalisations, and even deaths”.
“We need a clearer view of where the virus is circulating and how many people have been infected, in order to guide our actions. It is important to accelerate and expand testing to track the spread of COVID-19 in the Americas,” the Director further stressed.
Dr. Etienne said expanded and decentralised testing will enable regional stakeholders to better monitor the pandemic’s trends within each country.
“Expanded testing will also allow local health authorities to implement and strengthen contact tracing, to quickly isolate suspected cases and break the chain of transmission in communities. When combined with other basic public health measures, testing can be a powerful tool to manage the pandemic and save lives,” the PAHO Director pointed out.
She cited the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and Germany where this approach has been successful, and encouraged PAHO member states to “follow their example and expand their existing testing capacities”.
Dr. Etienne said prior to the COVID-19 pandemic declaration, many regional countries were prepared to test and detect cases of the virus.
She pointed out that by the end of February, PAHO had distributed reagents that were required for PCR testing and provided training for the appropriate use to more than 30 member states.
The Director emphasised that PCR testing remains “the gold standard for diagnosing cases and isolating them”, adding that the application is affordable and highly accurate when performed by well-trained personnel in public health laboratories.
Dr. Etienne said while PAHO continues to provide critical material to maintain this core detection capacity within the region’s public health laboratory network, several countries have found it “increasingly difficult” to sustain this undertaking as the number of cases has increased.
“We fully recognise that ramping up testing capacity for COVID-19 is a challenge for many countries in our region, which limits effective public health measures and the timely access to healthcare. This is partly due to the uneven capacity of health systems to quickly process a large volume of tests,” she indicated.
Another challenge, Dr. Etienne noted, relates to manufacturers who, she said, “are not providing enough tests as quickly as we need”.
“Even sophisticated companies in our region have been forced to exponentially scale up their supply chains, output capacity, and distribution, in just a couple of months. That level of scale-up is unprecedented. However, we are seeing encouraging signs that the market is starting to catch up,” she said.
Equally important, the Director added, is the need to ensure that these emerging tests are reliable and efficacious.
“The landscape is changing fast and PAHO will continue to help quickly evaluate new tests as they become available. PAHO is providing guidance; therefore, that will support national regulatory authorities and Ministries of Health in making sound decisions. Our platforms and expert teams are available to all member states as a resource to guide and support you,” she added.
Dr. Etienne also underscored the need for equitable access by all member states to the test kits, and encourages manufacturers to work closely with PAHO to ensure this.
She lamented that each death from COVID-19, “represents a life cut short, a family in mourning, and wasted potential for the people of the Americas”.
Against this background, Dr. Etienne said PAHO “sincerely hopes that the measures that have been implemented in many member states, thus far, are sufficient in flattening the curve significantly”.
JIS News by DOUGLAS McINTOSH
CARICOM says they want ‘Ceasefire’ in Gaza
March 3, 2024 – The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and is calling out Israel for ignoring UN calls to put an end to the invasion, following the conclusion of the 46th Heads of Government Intersessional Meeting.
The February 29 statement was published online and maintained that CARICOM was “deeply distressed by the ongoing violence and deteriorating situation in Gaza, which has resulted in the tragic loss of civilian lives, including the deaths of women and children on an unprecedented scale, and widespread displacement and suffering.”
Despite its calls for a cease fire, the regional bloc reiterated its strong condemnation of the attacks by Hamas ‘as well as of the Israeli actions that violate international humanitarian law and the human rights of the Palestinian people.’
CARICOM is describing Israel’s attacks on Gaza as ‘incessant’ and ‘catastrophic’ in impact on that region.
“CARICOM urges an immediate and unconditional ceasefire in Gaza and safe and unimpeded access for the delivery of adequate and sustained humanitarian assistance. We also strongly advocate for the rule of law to prevail and for the return to their families of all hostages and persons held in administrative detention without charge.
Israel’s continued and expanding occupation of territory in the occupied West Bank poses a serious and continuing threat to a peaceful, secure and stable world.”
CARICOM is also reaffirming its commitment to a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians, and has summoned stronger interference and enforcement by the United Nations (UN).
“The Community, therefore, calls on the United Nations General Assembly to invoke its powers in the UN General Assembly Resolution 377A “Uniting for Peace” to hold an emergency session and to issue appropriate recommendations to UN Member States to collectively impose measures designed to motivate Israel to adhere to its obligations under the said UN Resolution and under the ICJ Order.”
Israeli Jews and Palestine are steeped in a bloody conflict which began following an October 7, 2024 attack on Jewish people by Hamas militants which reportedly resulted in hundreds being killed, it was reported that 260 bodies were recovered and 130 Israelis were taken hostage. The response by Israel has been incessant and merciless, the latest criticism coming on February 29, when Israel was accused of opening fire on Palestinians crowding a UN orchestrated, relief convoy where 112 people were killed.
Matters Related to Financing for Development in the Region
March 3, 2024
Heads of Government are of the view that funds should be streamlined to ensure that there are no conflicting mandates.
In this regard, Heads of Government supported the establishment of the Blue-Green Investment Bank, which is being established by Barbados, whose mandate is exclusively on investments aimed at achieving adaptation and safeguarding resilience in our Region and in our individual Member States.
Heads of Government are also of the view that pursuit of the CARICOM Development Fund’s (CDF) mandate should support investments aimed at stabilising Disadvantaged Countries, regions and sectors, with a view to achieving high levels of long-term economic growth in our Region and our individual Members States.
Heads of Government noted the existence of substantial amounts of funds held by households and the private sector in the financial institutions of the Region, both bank and non-bank. A fraction of these deposits could be mobilised to finance Bonds issued by the CDF after consultation with the Regional Central Banks and preserve compliance with the prudential requirements of the financial sector in the respective jurisdictions.
It was agreed that the Lead Head of Government in the CARICOM Quasi Cabinet with responsibility for CARICOM Single Market and Economy, Honourable Mia Amor Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, will coordinate the establishment of a Working Group on Financing for Caribbean Development, to be convened and headed by Vice-President Bharrat Jagdeo to address the matter of mobilising financing including from the sources identified above, to be intermediated through the Blue-Green Investment Bank and the CDF to advance the objectives of regional resilience and growth.
It was also agreed that this Working Group on Financing for Caribbean Development should conclude its work within four months of the current meeting with a view to submitting the Report by the next meeting of Heads of Government.
Secretary-General’s remarks at press conference upon arrival in Kingstown Airport, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
29 February 2024
Ladies and gentlemen of the media,
Let me first of all, express my deep gratitude to Prime Minister Gonsalves for having invited me to participate in this CELAC Summit and to intervene in the opening session. But this visit goes beyond the participation in a Summit. It’s a visit in which I would like to pay a few tributes and to express a deep solidarity.
The first tribute is to Latin America and the Caribbean as a continent of peace, in a world where we see a proliferation of wars and conflicts of all kinds. Today, I was shocked to know that, in another episode of the war in Gaza, 100 people that were queuing to receive humanitarian aid were killed.
I think that a situation like this would require an effective independent investigation to detect how it was possible and those responsible for it. And at the same time, there is the reported number of more than 30,000 civilians that have died in Gaza since 7 October, making it an unprecedented number of civilians killed in a conflict since I have been Secretary-General.
Now, in this context, to see Latin America and the Caribbean as a continent of peace, and to see that when a problem arises, and recently we had one with two neighbours, Guyana and Venezuela, there is a mediator that emerges and is able to bring the parties together and to avoid a conflict. And so, I want to pay tribute to Prime Minister Gonsalves for his permanent role, always very attentive to any possibility of conflict, and his engaged, active and effective mediation, as I also have seen in relation to his very strong commitment to the solution of the problems in Haiti.
And paying tribute to him, I want to pay tribute to the courage, the resilience and the solidarity of the people of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. When the volcano exploded, and when this island and its population faced the dramatic tragedy, I could witness the way this country was able to mobilize everything. The solidarity of the people, the courage of the people, the determination of the people – that is something that is an example for all of us, everywhere. And once again, I want to express my enormous appreciation for what was done in the immediate response and in the reconstruction that followed.
But I also want to express a deep solidarity to the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. Many of the economies of the continent are in deep trouble. When COVID-19 devastated the world, the truth is that developed countries, like mine, in the European Union, were able to print money in large quantities, to support their people and to support their economies.
Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, the overwhelming majority could not print money because, if they would have to print money, their currencies would suffer enormously. And so, they had to borrow in order to solve the problems of their people and their economies after COVID-19. And we see now so many economies in this continent drowning in debt, and we see that an unfair, ineffective, and outdated international financial architecture has proven unable to support these countries in this moment of distress. To make things worse, with the war in Ukraine and with other impacts, prices went up, interest rates went up. The impact on their economies has been terrible. But many of the economies of the region are middle-income countries, and middle-income countries have no access to concessional funding, and they have no access to debt relief that is effective.
It’s time for a reform or our international financial institutions. It’s time for a new Bretton Woods movement in which developing countries can see an international financial system able to address the enormous challenges that they face.
And the last word of solidarity is for Small Island Developing States. They are on the front lines of the fight against climate change. They are the ones that suffer more with the impacts of climate change, and they have not contributed to climate change. But even not having contributed to climate change, they are also on the front lines of adopting the measures of mitigation to reduce emissions that are, of course, very limited from the beginning, but to show their solidarity with the world. And it is absolutely essential that there is not only a much bigger ambition in relation to the reduction of emissions. And that is essentially a responsibility of the G20 countries that represent 80 per cent of the emissions. But we need much more climate justice. Which means much more finance available at reasonable cost for adaptation and mitigation for developing countries, and in particular for Small Island Developing States.
And so, this is the moment to recognize that countries of Latin America and the Caribbean that have been victims of an unfair international financial system, and that many of them in particular are victims of a runaway climate change, have the right to claim for the reforms that are necessary in order to create the conditions for their governments to be able to act providing their peoples with the response to the needs that need to be addressed. Because it is absolutely unacceptable that lack of investment in education, or in housing, or infrastructure, is the price paid for an unfair international financial system in the moment of a global multiplication of wars and conflicts that represents the threat to international peace and security.
Question: We live in a hemisphere that has a lot of different issues and also we have various types of organizations at various levels? How do you see CELAC playing a particular role including those issues in the hemisphere?
Secretary-General: I’ve always been supportive of integration. Economic integration, political integration, as the key instrument for regions to be able to allow their countries to cooperate more strongly and cooperating more strongly to be able to better defend the interests of their people. So I believe that CELAC is an extremely important tool to push for a progressive economic and political integration in the Latin American and Caribbean world.
Question: July 6, 2023 you spoke on two issues. And you mentioned that to address the problem in Haiti a budget of about $720 million was needed, but at the time of your address in Trinidad and Tobago only 23 percent of that financing was collected. How much of that financing has been collected and how much is needed to bring peace to Haiti?
Secretary-General: I think that in Haiti we need three things. First: we need effective, political progress for a political solution.
Second: we need a security system that allows to end domination of the gangs and the criminality that is destroying the country. And I hope that an international force for which I fought will be able to soon be in Haiti, but we also need much more international support from the humanitarian and economic point of view.
Indeed, the humanitarian appeal of last year was insufficiently funded. We just launched a new humanitarian appeal and I hope that this time the world will understand that the people of Haiti are suffering so much that at least in the minimum of the minimum that corresponds to the basic needs – there is an effective response of the international community.
That is my strong appeal. But that will not replace the need for a political solution and the need for establishment of security.
Question: You were talking about Haiti. I wanted to ask about the CARICOM Summit. They arrived with a date for elections on 2025. What’s your opinion about this?The second question is related to climate justice that you were talking about and this need for a reform of the financial system. Is this going to be one of the main issues during the CELAC Summit to talk about? How is it possible to work with them?
Secretary-General: First of all, in relation to Haiti, there was some progress with the constitution of the presidential council, with the checks and balances that were established and with the scheduling of the elections. The problem that we need to be absolutely sure is solved is implementation. And that things are not postponed or that things, or that nobody is dragging his or her feet.
So, we absolutely need now to move quickly in the implementation of what was decided because let’s be clear, you can put as many police forces as possible in Haiti [but] if there is no political solution, the problem will not be solved.
It is not for me to define the agenda of CELAC. But two things I can guarantee – these two issues will be raised by me very clearly in my intervention tomorrow.
And, when we talk about climate justice, we are still waiting for a meaningful availability of resources for the loss and damage fund.
We need much more than what was promised. We need a clarification of how the adaptation funding will double, and commitment that should emerge of making 50 per cent of international funding on climate for adaptation. We need to clarify once and for all how the $100 billion that developed countries have promised per year are implemented.
And we need to do the reforms in the way international financial institutions work – both the need to increase their capital level and the need to change their business model in order to be able to mobilize much more resources and to attract private capital at reasonable cost for support of developing countries in climate action.
Question: Over the years, a number of resolutions have been passed by the United Nations Security Council. How much of a hinderance towards achieving peace in a number of regions, the latest is what’s happening in Gaza, how much of a hinderance is the veto power of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council?
Secretary-General: The geopolitical divides that unfortunately have been aggravating in the recent times have transformed the veto power into an effective instrument of paralysis of the action of the Security Council.
In a world where those geopolitical divides would not exist, probably things would be easier. I remember the 1990s in which there were not many vetos. But the truth is, in the present situation, with the deep divides that we that we are witnessing among the main powers, the veto power became, indeed, an instrument of paralysis of the Security Council, and an instrument that limits its capacity to address the crisis, the dramatic crises we are facing.
One example. I’ve been claiming for months that we need a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, as we need the immediate and unconditional release of hostages. Until now it was not possible to have the Security Council adopt this position. And when one sees the incident that I mentioned – about 100 people that were killed – we see how important this humanitarian ceasefire [would be.]
There are, of course, negotiations that are taking place and I wish success for those negotiations – to be possible to have the release of a number of hostages, to be possible to have an interruption in the fighting – but I am totally convinced that we need a humanitarian ceasefire and we need the unconditional and immediate release of hostages and that we should have a Security Council able to achieve these objectives.
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