Washington, D.C. September 1, 2021 (PAHO) Pan American Health Organization Director Carissa F. Etienne warned that 75% of the population in Latin America and the Caribbean has yet to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and reported that PAHO is accelerating its drive to expand vaccine access throughout the region.
“Three fourths of people in Latin America and the Caribbean have not been fully immunized,” Dr. Etienne said during her weekly media briefing. “More than a third of countries in our region have yet to vaccinate 20% of their populations. And in some places, coverage is much lower.”
“Vaccination rates remain in the teens in several Caribbean and South American countries and coverage is still in the single digits in Central American nations like Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua,” she continued.
In Haiti and Venezuela, fragile health systems and political challenges have further delayed immunizations. “Unfortunately, countries with high coverage are the exception in our Region,” she emphasized.
Dr. Etienne said that in total, 540 million COVID-19 vaccine doses must be delivered to ensure that all countries in Latin America and the Caribbean can cover at least 60% of their populations. “So we must expand vaccine access in our region, especially in the places that are lagging,” she said.
In response to the shortage, PAHO has launched a fresh drive for donations. “We are working to draw the attention of developed countries to the urgent need to donate vaccines to Latin America and the Caribbean,” Dr. Etienne said.
In addition, PAHO is using its Revolving Fund to procure vaccines for member states. Already PAHO has received requests from 24 countries for COVID-19 vaccines, which will be available in the final quarter of this year and in 2022.
“We are also thinking ahead and making plans to significantly improve regional vaccine manufacturing capacity,” Dr. Etienne said. “Just last week, we launched a new platform that convenes partners around a shared vision of boosting state-of-the-art vaccine production in Latin America and the Caribbean.”
The first initiative under the platform is to facilitate the transfer to the region of the mRNA vaccine technology used in highly effective COVID-19 vaccines. PAHO has received 32 proposals from private and public companies that want to participate in the endeavor.
Dr. Etienne urged countries to prioritize the most vulnerable for vaccination, such as the elderly, health workers and those living with pre-existing conditions. Countries should make sure that logistics systems can absorb vaccine doses and cold chains can keep them cool and that health systems are ready to deliver doses fast once they arrive.
While vaccination rates are low in Latin America and the Caribbean, many countries are experiencing a rapid rise in COVID-19 infection.
In the Caribbean, Saint Lucia and Puerto Rico are reporting high rates of new infections, while Jamaica is experiencing its highest-ever COVID deaths.
“Outbreaks are accelerating in multiple Central American countries, especially Costa Rica and Belize,” Dr. Etienne said. “In South America, infections are generally declining, with a few exceptions: in Venezuela cases are plateauing, and in Suriname, transmission has increased for four consecutive weeks.”
In total, over 1.6 million new COVID-19 cases and just under 22,000 deaths were reported in the Americas in the past week.
Crisis in Haiti
Turning to the continuing crisis in Haiti, where an earthquake struck on Aug. 14, Dr. Etienne reported that most hospitals are overwhelmed, and many health facilities have been damaged.
“We have injured people in remote communes who are still without medical attention because they can’t reach health centers or hospitals,” she said.
PAHO has deployed 27 tons of medicines as well as several specialists to support field coordination, epidemiological surveillance, health cluster coordination, emergency projects, logistics, and EMT coordination. PAHO is also working closely with the Ministry of Public Health and Population to help coordinate international aid.
“We need more medical personnel, medicines, and medical supplies such as anesthetic drugs and orthopedic supplies for the injured,” she said. “Another need is psychosocial support for healthcare personnel and the people affected by this earthquake.”
Brave presentation in defence of Bahamas’ financial services reputation by PM Davis
By Sherrica Thompson
#TheBahamas, October 1, 2022 – Prime Minister of the Bahamas Phillip ‘Brave’ Davis is again calling for equality in the financial services sector and for the United Nations to leverage its universal jurisdiction for greater oversight of global anti-money laundering de-risking and tax cooperation matters.
In addressing the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday, September 24, Prime Minister Davis said the Bahamas is one of the best-regulated countries in the world, yet it has been under attack by international bodies and placed on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) blacklist while transgressions in the developed world are ignored.
He questioned why this was the case and highlighted some disparities in the financial sector.
“Why is it that European states that operate frameworks akin to that of high-risk or blacklisted countries, are not even eligible for inclusion on these lists? Why are all the countries targeted – all of them – small and vulnerable, and former colonies of European states? We find it astounding that the $2-$3 trillion dollars which is estimated to be laundered each year through the developed countries, are never flagged as causes for concern,” articulated Phillip Davis, addressing the 77th session in New York.
Prime Minister Davis further noted that there are elements of racism in the decision-making when it comes to regulating black-governed countries in the financial services sector. He also declared that black-governed countries matter as well.
And yet my country, which is widely recognized as one of the best-regulated countries in the world, and other countries like The Bahamas, are singled-out for such reputational attacks? The robust regulatory regimes of our Central Bank, Securities Commission, and Insurance Commission, are chastised on minor details of technical process, while much bigger transgressions in the developed world are ignored.
The evidence is mounting, that the considerations behind these decisions have less to do with compliance, and more to do with darker issues of pre-judged, discriminatory perceptions. Black-governed countries also matter.”
Davis also highlighted the need for reforms that apply to all in the global financial system.
“Mr. President: We support the call for reforms in the global financial system to make it more relevant to the needs of today. But those reforms need ambition. They need to go beyond the incremental. And they need to apply to all. For example, the community of international financial institutions are in a position to forgive the debt incurred by the economic shutdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic. They should do so.”
Statement to Update on the Sale of the Grand Lucayan
“Deal progressing toward closure”
#GrandBahama, The Bahamas, October 1, 2022 – The Board of Lucayan Renewal Holdings Limited (LRHL) advises that negotiations toward a successful deal on the Grand Lucayan Resort continue to progress satisfactorily. It was announced in the first week of August in a joint statement with Electra America Hospitality Group that the due diligence period was extended by 45 days to September 15.
By virtue of this, the final closing date was also extended to November 15, 2022. We note that the recent seven-day extension did not impact the agreed November closing date. We anticipate that the sales process will be completed consistent with our revised timelines. The Board of LRHL remains committed to ensuring that a credible plan and shared vision for the resort is realized – a plan that will provide jobs, entrepreneurial opportunities and strengthen Grand Bahama’s economy.
We remain on track for a successful purchase and signing of a Heads of Agreement, in the best interest of the people of Grand Bahama.
There are matters connected to the transaction that are still being negotiated; we look forward to briefing the public as soon as negotiations are concluded.
MASK AND COVID TESTING MANDATES END FOR THE BAHAMAS
By Shanieka Smith
#TheBahamas, October 1, 2022 – The Bahamas is looking ahead to another roll back on restrictions as the precautions set up in response to the coronavirus pandemic fade away. October 1 ends the mandate for face masks in The Bahamas; it’s another policy being recalled as the world embraces a new normal, where face coverings are optional.
In a snap measure, the minister of health for the Bahamas, Michael Darville also this month ended the COVID 19 testing entry requirement for the unvaccinated. It makes The Bahamas, as a leading tourism destination, more affordable and more accessible as evidence supports that it does not also mean a spike in Covid cases.
Prime Minister Phillip Davis announced that the mask mandate change from New York, following his appearance at the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II and while attending the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly. However, it is not masks off for everyone: medical facilities, aged care centers and schools will keep the rule.
The decision was met with applause by President of the Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union, Darrin Woods who said this move will undoubtedly improve tourism numbers and contribute to the nation’s economic recovery.
Additionally, President of The Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association, Robert Sands, said the time for mask mandate and Covid-19 testing for unvaccinated travellers had long passed. He believes that removing this protocol will level the playing field since other rivals in the tourism industry have already done so.
Already, long stay guests to The Bahamas were exempt from mask wearing on hotel properties.
At this point, some 173,000 Bahamas residents have been fully vaccinated and in the September 26 health report; three patients were in intensive care from the virus of the 132 active and only one new case had been recorded in Nassau.
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