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New rapid antigen tests poised to transform COVID-19 response in the Americas says PAHO

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PAHO conducting pilot studies in four countries to help make the most of these new diagnostics. Millions of these tests will be made available to countries of the Region at an accessible price via PAHO’s Strategic Fund  

Washington D.C. – STATEMENT from October 14, 2020 (PAHO) – The new affordable, reliable antigen diagnostic tests recently approved by WHO that can be performed anywhere are set to transform the region’s COVID-19 response by allowing health workers to carry out accurate, rapid testing, even in remote communities, Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director Carissa F Etienne, said today. 

Unlike previous rapid, antibody tests, which can show when someone has had COVID-19 but often give a negative result during the early stages of infection, the new rapid, antigen tests are much more accurate in determining if someone is currently infected.  

“By providing results quickly, the new test empowers frontline health workers to better manage cases by isolating patients to prevent further spread and to begin treatment immediately,” Etienne said in a press briefing. “If distributed widely, this new test will transform our COVID response.”   

Etienne said the diagnostic tests will be particularly useful in hard to reach areas without easy access to a laboratory, which have been disproportionally impacted by the pandemic.  

PAHO’s Strategic Fund

“Today, PAHO can provide access to hundreds of thousands of these tests via PAHO’s Strategic Fund, with millions more expected in the coming weeks,” said Etienne.  

The Strategic Fund is a regional technical cooperation mechanism for pooled procurement of essential medicines and supplies and is a central component of PAHO’s strategy to move towards Universal Health.  

A pilot study is also currently being conducted by PAHO in Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico and Suriname.  “With support from WHO, we will be providing these diagnostic tests free of cost as we keep a close eye on how they’re used. The data collected via this study will help countries within and outside of our region make the most of these new diagnostics,” Etienne said.  

In the meantime, PAHO has also begun helping countries implement new testing protocols so that health workers know how to use the new diagnostics and report their results.  

The PAHO Director urged countries to “bring these new tests to the hospitals and health clinics on the frontlines of our fight against the virus. But it’s important to remember that no single innovation is a panacea,” she said.  

COVID-19 update in the Americas 

More than 18 million COVID-19 cases and more than 590,000 deaths have been reported and “The state of the pandemic in the Americas remains complex,” Etienne said. Canada is facing a second wave, cases in Argentina continue to accelerate, the Caribbean is seeing a high number of cases, and in many countries, the pandemic has also moved to less populated areas, she noted.  

“Since the pandemic began more than nine months ago, we have known that to beat this virus, we must transform our public health response. We need public health measures to prevent community transmission; fast, accurate and affordable diagnostic tests to determine when someone has been infected with COVID 19; new medicines to help COVID patients get better and, ultimately, a safe and effective vaccine,” Etienne said.  

PCR diagnostic tests, which are highly accurate and must be conducted in lab settings remain the gold standard for testing, but delays in getting results mean that people run the risk of infecting others while they await results, she noted. “The new tests will 

enable primary healthcare workers, whether they’re working in the middle of the Amazon, or in an urban center, to diagnose and care for patients immediately, stopping further infections in their tracks. And that is the gamechanger,” Etienne said.   

She added that “it remains critical to stay the course in every aspect of our COVID response. We must continue to adhere to public health measures to prevent the spread of the virus. We must continue to test and isolate cases and trace their contacts to prevent new infections. And we must continue to let data underpin our actions to prevent any new cases from spreading out of control.” 

Innovations must reach the people who need them most, and “To capitalize on the power of this new diagnostic, countries must make them available and accessible to everyone – regardless of who they are or where they live – to bring us closer to our promise for health for all,” Etienne said. The tests form part of the WHO Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator to develop, procure and distribute critical new tools to fight the pandemic 

Press Release, Contact:
Leticia Linn
Sebastian Oliel
Ashley Baldwin
Daniel Epstein

mediateam@paho.org

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Caribbean News

New UN Resident Coordinator for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Visits Dominica  

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ROSEAU, June 21, 2024: The new United Nations Resident Coordinator for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Simon Springett, is currently in the Commonwealth of Dominica to present his credentials ahead of key meetings with Government and national officials.

Today, Mr. Springett formally presented his credentials and met with Prime Minister the Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit, ahead of courtesy calls with Dominica’s President H. E. Sylvanie Burton, and several other senior Government Ministers.

Prime Minster Skerrit who expressed gratitude for the collective support received from the UN Development System to date, pledged to continue working to strengthen their partnership in coming years, noting that he was also “looking forward to establishing the UN Common Premises”, which is expected to expand UN cooperation and joint support in Dominica.

Meanwhile, the new UN Head also gave assurances of continued UN partnership and expansion of support to cover existing gaps. He added: “I am honoured to be here in Dominica, the beautiful Nature Isle, and to pledge my commitment, along with the UN Team, to supporting the Government in building resilience,  and further advancing the Sustainable Development Goals.”

During his visit, Mr. Springett also met with the Minister for the Environment, Rural Modernisation, Kalinago Upliftment and Constituency Empowerment, the Hon. Cozier Frederick, and visited the Kalinago Territory, where he benefitted from a brief historical tour of the Kalinago Barana Auté (Village by the Sea).

The Mission also included meetings with the Minister for Finance, Economic Development, Climate Resilience and Social Security – Hon. Dr. Irving McIntyre; Minister for National Security and Legal Affairs – Hon. Rayburn Blackmoore; National Disaster Coordinator, Office of Disaster Management – Mr. Fitzroy Pascal; Commissioner of Police – Mr. Davidson Valerie and the UN Multi-Country Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (MSDCF) Focal Point, Dr. Adis King, among other officials, and with UN staff in Dominica.

On June 1, Mr. Springett was appointed by UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, as the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, with the approval of the host Governments. A national of the United States, he brings his distinguished 25-year career in international development to this critical role, having most recently served as the UN Resident Coordinator in Moldova since 2019, leading the UN’s efforts in that country.

As the highest-ranking official of the UN development system in the Eastern Caribbean, Mr. Springett will lead the UN Sub-regional Team (UNST) across 10 countries and territories. He will champion the UN’s mandates and advocate for the delivery of the MSDCF in close collaboration with national governments and regional institutions. A key focus will be strengthening cooperation and effectiveness of UN operational activities throughout the region.

In the coming weeks, the new Resident Coordinator is expected to present his credentials to other Member States in his area of responsibility.

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Caribbean News

Jamaica Committed to Resilient Ocean Ecosystem

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#Kingston, Jamaica, June 24, 2024 – Director General of the Maritime Authority of Jamaica, Bertrand Smith has reiterated Jamaica’s commitment to fostering a resilient ocean ecosystem for future generations.

Speaking at a recent World Oceans Day ceremony hosted by Earth Ambassadeurs at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, Mr. Smith outlined Jamaica’s proactive measures in marine conservation, including the implementation of a global initiative supported by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to combat marine litter from transport and fisheries sectors.

The Director General also noted the country’s compliance with the 2023 IMO Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emission Strategy.

“As an active member of the International Maritime Organization, Jamaica commits to global efforts aimed at decarbonizing shipping, with ambitious goals to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050,” he said.

Recognizing the urgent need for action, Mr. Smith highlighted the pivotal role of youth leadership in driving sustainable change.

“[World Ocean Day] not only celebrates our oceans but also empowers our youth, particularly our Earth Ambassadeurs and Junior Ambassadeurs who are leading the charge for environmental stewardship,” he said.

“I am proud of how youth leadership is helping to drive the transformative change needed for our blue planet. On local, national, and international levels, young people are engaging in action and policy change to create a better future. We applaud these young climate advocates,” the Director General added.

Mr. Smith also appealed to persons to “safeguard our oceans and environment for our children, our grandchildren, and the generations to come” while adding that what is done today and over the coming years, will be crucial for their future and their world.

 

Photo Caption: Bert Smith addresses Earth Ambassadeurs World Oceans Day Ceremony

Contact: Peta-Gaye Hodges

Release: JIS

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Caribbean News

Dengigh Agricultural Food Show Set for August 4-6

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#Kingston, June 24, 2024 – The upcoming Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show, is attracting a record number of interests from potential exhibitors, according to Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Mining, Hon. Floyd Green.

“In terms of exhibits and people asking questions to be exhibitors, we are already at 20 per cent above the requests that we got last year. Denbigh is looking extremely good,” Mr. Green said.

He was speaking at the launch of the 70th staging of the event at the Hi-Pro Ace Supercentre, in White Marl, St. Catherine on June 21.

The Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show will be held from Sunday, August 4 to Tuesday, August 6, at the Denbigh Show Grounds in May Pen, Clarendon.

It is the largest agricultural exposition in the Caribbean, and has attracted over 100 exhibitors, offering a wide range of agricultural-related booths and seminars.

“Denbigh represents our progress in agriculture and has provided a platform to showcase agriculture excellence. The Denbigh Show is a place that you can learn about modern agriculture trends, and an environment that caters to our farmers, and provides entertainment to the entire family,” Minister Green said.

He also used the opportunity to laud the island’s farmers as they continue to ensure growth in the agriculture sector, despite the drought.

Mr. Green informed that local onion production is at an all-time high, while adding that the Government will continue to provide incentives for growth of the sector, and several other agricultural related industries.

The Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show has attracted over 80,000 patrons, and is a benchmark for showcasing agriculture and its related industries.

 

Contact: Garfield L. Angus

Release: JIS

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