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Don’t be too hasty in lifting COVID-19 restrictions – PAHO head

Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) director, Dr Carissa Etienne, is warning that lifting COVID-19 restrictions too soon could accelerate the spread of the virus and open the door for a dramatic upsurge in countries of the region.

The warning came during a PAHO press briefing on Tuesday.

She said governments should base their policy decisions on data and be certain to analyse the rate of new cases and death, as well as be sure to evaluate the number of hospital beds needed and capacity to determine the spread of the virus.

Her caution was also echoed by PAHO Assistant Director Dr Jarbas Barbosa, who is urging that a cautious transition planning be put in place for countries in the Americas, including Jamaica, that are contemplating relaxing COVID-19 restrictions to boost their battered economies.

Barbosa said there must be some amount of patience even amid the need to reopen devastated economies laid bare by the virus, and key to this should be containing the spread.

“It is very important that countries across the region not only flatten the curve, but that you have a clear indication that you have control transmission,” Barbosa said.

“That is the first step. Second, countries need to have a very cautious and well-planned transition process in place to relax restrictions and to allow some activities to start happening, and of course, we must start with the most essential service in the respective country,” added Barbosa.

At the same, he said governments should monitor at least two different sets of indicators – the number of new cases and the number of deaths – to see if they are experiencing new outbreaks of COVID-19.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness has indicated a willingness to reopen the economy.

Last week, he said his administration would be shifting its attention to restarting the economy, which has been hard hit by the COVID-19 outbreak, putting the onus on a newly formed COVID-19 Economic Recovery Task Force.

Holness announced that the task force is charged with developing a plan of action in conjunction with the Ministry of Health and Wellness.

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