Medical personnel at the COVID-19 tents at the Port-of-Spain General Hospital yesterday.

With over 100 COVID-19 deaths in just the first ten days of November, Trinidad and Tobago is among four countries with higher mortality rates in the Caribbean.

While most Caribbean countries have COVID-19 mortality rates below 2 per cent, the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) says T&T, Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas and Grenada are under three per cent. At PAHO’s weekly COVID-19 media conference yesterday, Director of Health Emergencies Dr Ciro Ugarte told Guardian Media that many other countries had higher mortality rates.

“When we look at the number of cases in most countries in the region, some countries in the Caribbean have shown an increase although the numbers are still low. The proportion and the temporality of these increases are worrisome for some countries. Most of the countries in the Caribbean show a case mortality rate below two per cent. Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago have more than two per cent, but below three per cent,” Ugarte said.

He said that measures taken to protect the population, including the availability of health facilities, hospital and Intensive Care Units, and controlling rapid spread, are working quite well, but with economies reopening, this increases the possibility of transmission among populations and international travellers. Therefore, Ugarte said countries must keep track of the availability of ICU beds because many Caribbean countries have limited capacity.

“Although we have been working very closely with many of those countries to increase the capacity of ICU beds, there are still some limits, not only on equipment and ICU beds themselves but also for health personnel to support and supply to treat the patients.”

After two consecutive months of decreasing trends in the Americas, COVID-19 infections are increasing in some countries in the Americas. Over last week, the region recorded 700,000 new cases and 13,000 related deaths.

In the Caribbean, T&T, Barbados and The Dominican Republic experienced a rise in infections, while Cuba, Jamaica and Puerto Rico saw decreases. The Cayman Islands and Dominica are also reporting high case counts. There were increases in Columbia and Bolivia as PAHO noted the relaxation of public health measures.

Vaccination among people in Latin America and the Caribbean climbed to 48 per cent over the past week.

But PAHO Director Dr Carissa Etienne said that while COVID-19 vaccinations pick up in the region, less than one in five people in Jamaica, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Guatemala got the vaccines. In Nicaragua, coverage remains at single digit.

Less than 1 per cent of Haiti’s eligible population is fully vaccinated.

PAHO Director Dr Carissa Etienne admitted that the situation in the region was still concerning as infections rose in some countries and the pace of vaccination was not adequate. Etienne said PAHO also observed rising vaccine hesitancy in the Caribbean.

“While many people may be tired of the pandemic, it is not over yet, and this is not the time to relax public health and social distancing measures, and this is what we are seeing,” Etienne said.