This Wednesday, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) warned of the rapid spread of the variant of the Omicron coronavirus. In the last week alone, cases in the Americas have almost doubled and experts estimate that the spread of the virus will still be on the rise.
The Omicron variant is more present than ever on the American continent. According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Covid-19 positives have almost doubled in the last week.
However, the region is coping with the rebound in cases better than in the past, as the mortality rate is lower as several nations already apply booster vaccines against the virus.
“Infections accelerated rapidly during the Christmas season reaching transmission levels never seen before during this pandemic,” PAHO Director Carissa Etienne said during a virtual conference.
And it is that the region has gone from registering 3.4 million cases on January 1 to 6.1 million on January 8, almost double. A situation caused mainly by the Omicron variant, already present in 35 countries on the continent.
Faced with this upswing in positives, PAHO stressed the importance of vaccinating the population, also with booster doses.
The 🌎 countries have been working diligently to secure the vaccines they need to protect their populations. Thanks to their efforts, almost 60% of people in Latin America in the Caribbean have been 💉 completely with two doses – @DirOPSPAHO # COVID19 https://t.co/XvXurH80yy
– PAHO / WHO (@opsoms) January 12, 2022
Despite the fact that, according to data from PAHO itself, about 60% of the population of Latin America and the Caribbean has already received the full vaccination schedule, there are still many citizens reluctant to receive the doses.
At least 10 countries in the region have not managed to reach even 40% of the vaccinated population, so the health organization urges to increase the number of inoculated.
“The goal is to have 70% of the population vaccinated by June 1 of this year and, with the new variant, expand vaccination campaigns and have greater access to vaccines,” said Étienne during his appearance.
Despite the fact that the United States is the country that harbors the highest number of cases, other nations such as Paraguay and Argentina have seen their contagion rate increase by almost 300% during the last week.
Argentina, over 130,000 infections a day
The third wave of Covid-19 has already reached Argentina and has a name: Ómicron. In the last 24 hours, the South American country exceeded 130,000 cases of Covid-19 for the second consecutive day since the start of the pandemic.
After months of favorable epidemiological situation, in October the Government of Alberto Fernández relaxed the containment measures against the virus and reopened the country’s borders. However, with the arrival of the new wave, the Executive has had to redesign its contingency strategy.
Situation # COVID19 in Argentina
Confirmed: 131,082 | Total: 6,664,717 cases
Deaths: 75 | Total: 117,670
ICU bed occupancy: 2,206
Percentage of total occupancy of adult ICU beds:
– Nation: 39.5%
– AMBA: 40.4%
– Ministry of Health of the Nation (@msalnacion) January 12, 2022
With an alarming increase in positives in recent weeks, in Argentina the vaccination pass has come into force since January 1. With this, Argentines who want to attend mass events or in closed spaces must prove that they have the complete vaccination scheme.
At the moment, with 131,082 cases in the last day, the rate of positives in the country is 66.1%, well above the 10% recommended by the WHO in the context of the pandemic.
In addition, the occupation of beds in intensive care units (ICU) is 39.5% nationwide and 40.4% in Buenos Aires and its metropolitan area -although this level is due to all types of pathologies, not only Covid-19-.
Of the 45 million people in Argentina, 2.8 million have received a third additional dose and another 5.3 million received a booster dose.
Worst escalation of infections in Mexico since the beginning of the pandemic
The lines to be tested for the virus were very long this Wednesday in Guanajuato, Mexico. And it is not for less, since in the last seven days almost 135,000 Mexicans contracted Covid-19, a record number since the beginning of the pandemic.
The Ministry of Health of Mexico reported 33,626 new infections, the highest number of the pandemic, in the last 24 hours, in addition to 162 deaths.
In Mexico, the virus has reached the presidential residence. On Monday, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador made public that he had contracted Covid-19 for the second time, although he only accused mild symptoms such as “the flu.”
Regarding the level of deaths, it seems that the mortality rate does not accompany that of infections. However, experts have urged caution, as hospital systems could well collapse.
In addition, epidemiologists predict that cases will continue to rise in the North American country.
Why so much concern if the evidence suggests that Ómicron is less dangerous?
Amid the spread of the virus, initial studies on the new variant suggest that Ómicron is milder than its predecessors. So why are global alarms sounding?
Most of those infected experience symptoms different from those of the previous variants. The most common are a sore throat or runny nose, without the breathing difficulties typical of other versions of the virus, such as Delta.
However, despite the lower number of deaths in proportion, the absolute figures indicate that a greater number of people will develop severe symptoms with the disease. Especially those who have not been vaccinated, who occupy the largest number of beds in ICUs.
“I agree that sooner or later everyone will be exposed, but later is better. Because we will have better drugs and vaccines available,” said the epidemiologist Michel Nussenzweig, from Rockefeller University, to Reuters.
In addition, with more infections there are more possibilities that high-risk patients suffer from the disease, as indicated by PAHO.
“It is not about seeing Ómicron as a simple flu. It is important to bear in mind that many people have not yet received a full vaccination, mainly among those with comorbidity,” said Sylvain Aldighieri, manager of the Covid-19 Incident of PAHO.
The studies regarding Ómicron are still not enough. It is not known if this new variant will have long-term effects such as antibodies that attack the body, alterations in the sperm or in the insulin-producing cells, symptoms that have already been seen in other variants.
Along these lines, there is also concern about the saturation of hospitals – despite the fact that they are much more prepared for an epidemiological crisis than during the first wave of the virus – and the new mutations of Covid-19. Ómicron is the fifth variant of the coronavirus, and it has not yet been determined whether its mutational capacity has slowed down. What is known is that a high rate of contagion increases the chances of new mutations.
With EFE, Reuters and local media