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Jamaica among countries to receive more test kits from PAHO

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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.

Presentation in April 2020 to Jamaica

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Caribbean News

Barbados bestows Humanitarian Award on PAHO director Dr. Carissa Etienne 

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By Shanieka Smith

Staff Writer

 

#Barbados, November 25, 2022 – The newest recipient of Barbados’ Humanitarian Award is outgoing Pan American Health Organization Director, Dr Carissa Etienne.  The government of Barbados grants this award to frontline workers who were instrumental during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Upon receiving the award, Dr. Etienne expressed her gratitude for the recognition, noting, however, that she was more grateful for the opportunity to have served on the island. She also praised Prime Minister, Mia Mottley for her diligence in leading the country and regional involvement during the pandemic.

Humanitarian medals were also given to Frontline workers who risked their own safety to ensure the needs of the public were met. Those who held supporting roles on the frontline received humanitarian lapel pins, and those who made generous donations were given humanitarian plaques.

Dr. Etienne highlighted one major lesson from the pandemic, “we are only safe when the weakest among us is also safe”.

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Bahamas News

Bahamas and Turks & Caicos Immigration Ministers make appearance on TCI Radio Talk Show

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#TheBahamas, November 25, 2022 – “We have a humanitarian concern of course but we can only absorb so much” was how Fred Mitchell, Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Public Service in The Bahamas addressed the issue of the UN constantly nudging Caribbean countries about the deportation of migrants and recommending that it not be done.

He was speaking Thursday November 24 with Cheryl and Zhavargo on First Edition which airs on RTC FM.

While acknowledging that the UN offices likely ‘have to do what they do’ Minister Mitchell  explained that the current irregular migrants trying to get into the Bahamas did not fit the bill of ‘refugees’ as defined by the UN.

“We have a treaty obligation that says that if people have a fear of persecution in their home country that we have an obligation to take them in as asylum seekers. The people who come through on these boats from the south of us are not asylum seekers. They are afraid of poverty and that’s a difficult issue but in a legal sense we’re not obligated to embrace people on that basis.”

He cited a study that had found, on any given day there were around 7,000 illegal migrants in The Bahamas trying to get to the US maintaining that his chain of islands had to take a stand on the issue.  The Foreign Affairs minister acknowledged that  TCI was in an identical situation, citing also the the cultural effects of irregular migration.

“There is a cleavage which has developed in our own society over this; people are very concerned that we could lose our identity if we do not get on top of it.”

Earlier this year Arlington “new sheriff in town” Musgrove, Minister of Immigration and Border Services in the Turks and Caicos had described statements calling on surrounding countries to do more to assist persons fleeing Haiti as “reckless and misguided.”

“Haiti has a population of 11.6 million people. How could any small developing state like the Turks and Caicos Islands assist that number of people or even the smallest fraction of them? We have a population of some 47,000 persons, and our health care, education and other social systems remain fragile and could never withstand an influx of refugees. This would be a risk to our very own livelihood,” he had said.

He was interviewed in the same show on Thursday prior to Mitchell and expressed a similar determination to crack down on illegal migration.

“I want to stress this. If we catch anyone harbouring illegals, it could be my mommy, she’s going up. We cannot tolerate this. We’re catching the sloops so my Haitian brothers and sisters should stress to them don’t waste your money we’re sending you back.”

Turks and Caicos, this year passed a law, doubling fines and prison times for individuals harbouring illegal migrants.

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Caribbean News

JAMAICA: Government Revenues Soar

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#Kingston, November 25, 2022 – There has been a jump in Government revenue collection, with tax revenues for the first six months of the fiscal year exceeding budget by $35 billion.

Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr. the Hon. Nigel Clarke, said that the out-turn is as a result of higher-than-expected economic performance.

“The first quarter growth came out at 5.7 per cent… and all categories of revenue are over budget. Revenues from income and profits are up by nearly 13 per cent or $10 billion,” Dr. Clarke said.

In addition, he noted that revenues from production and consumption are up by seven per cent or $7 billion and revenues from international trade are up by 15 per cent or $18 billion. Revenues from motor-vehicle licences for the first six months of this year are 16 per cent higher than budgeted.

Dr. Clarke was speaking in the House of Representatives on Tuesday (November 22) where the First Supplementary Estimates for 2022/23 were approved.

The approval reflects a revised expenditure of $971 billion, from the previously approved budget of $912 billion for the financial year.

Minister Clarke said the First Supplementary Estimates come within the context of positive overperformance of the economy.

“As a result of this revenue overperformance… we are able to come to this Parliament six months after and put a Budget that proposes $60 billion in new expenditure,” Dr. Clarke said.

The largest component of the supplementary budget is the allocation for public-sector salaries and wages in keeping with the restructuring of compensation.

“We are allocating $16 billion there and there is another $2 billion to the Ministry of Health and Wellness and then about $3 billion for statutory deductions, making a total of $21 billion,” the Minister said.

 

Contact: Latonya Linton

Release: JIS

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