COVID cases falling in Americas, but risk of further surges remains - PAHO

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Vaccination posts of China's SINOVAC vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are seen as the Colombian government begins a vaccination campaign for kids, in Bogota, Colombia October 31, 2021. REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez

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SAO PAULO, April 6 (Reuters) - COVID-19 infections and deaths have dropped across most countries and territories in the Americas over the past few weeks but the risk of further surges cannot be ignored as restrictions are relaxed and 240 million people remain unvaccinated, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Wednesday.

"Many countries and territories in the Americas have scaled back public health measures, and some have done so prematurely," PAHO director Carissa Etienne said, noting that case counts have risen recently in places that rely on tourism, especially in parts of North America and the Caribbean where vaccination coverage is low.

The region continues to record more than 620,000 new cases every week, she said at a press conference.

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Etienne also noted that the number of deaths have risen in some countries, but adjustments in data may account for part of those increases as some countries are reclassifying past deaths as COVID-19 related.

More than 685 million people have completed their vaccination schedules in the region, but "despite all our efforts, 240 million people in the Americas have yet to get a single shot of COVID vaccine," Etienne said.

The PAHO director underscored that countries must continue to monitor the virus to "stay prepared for what is coming."

"This means making tests easily accessible for everyone everywhere, to prevent new outbreaks and to prepare our health systems if cases surge."

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Reporting by Gabriel Araujo and Steven Grattan; Editing by Mark Porter, Alexandra Hudson

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