COVID cases down in the Americas even as North America faces increase -PAHO

A healthcare worker takes a swab sample from a woman to be tested for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at La Rural, in Buenos Aires, Argentina December 23, 2021. Picture taken December 23, 2021. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian

SAO PAULO, April 20 (Reuters) - COVID-19 cases and deaths are declining in the Americas, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Wednesday, with infections last week having dropped 2.3% and deaths falling 15.2% from the prior week.

The broad trend comes even as cases have scaled up in North America with an 11.2% increase last week, the organization said, noting that in Canada hospitalizations rose by more than 20% as the proportion of Omicron BA.2 cases grew.

As borders have re-opened and tourism has ramped up, cases have also surged in some Caribbean countries and territories, with Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Barbados and Saint Martin having recorded the largest relative increases.

"Nonetheless, on a broad scale, cases and deaths are declining in the Americas," PAHO's director Dr. Carissa Etienne said in a press briefing.

She reinforced the need of consolidating high vaccination rates in the continent, and celebrated that 14 countries have already reached the World Health Organization (WHO) goal of fully immunizing 70% of their populations by June 30.

"The decoupling of death rates and new infections is proof that vaccines are working well to protect people from hospitalization and death due to COVID-19," Etienne said.

Reporting by Gabriel Araujo and Steven Grattan; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Mark Porter

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