ROAD TOWN, Tortola — Some 12 of the 22 countries the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn travelers to avoid are in the Caribbean
The Caribbean has also had the steepest increase in infections since the start of the two-year-old pandemic, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Wednesday. In North America, the United States and Canada are experiencing a surge of COVID-19 hospitalizations.
“The virus is spreading more actively than ever before,” PAHO Director Carissa Etienne told a briefing.
The British Virgin Islands was ranked 68th in the world in COVID-19 deaths just two weeks ago, but the death toll there has been rising steadily with the British protectorate posting a death toll of 47 which puts it at 58th in coronavirus fatalities as of today.
By comparison, the U.S. Virgin Islands, with roughly three times the population of the neighboring BVI — is officially reporting 94 deaths from COVID-19.
Other Caribbean countries with high per capita COVID death rates include: Trinidad & Tobago at 29, the Bahamas at 45, Grenada at 46, Bermuda at 48, Aruba at 49, Panama at 50, Saint Lucia at 52, the British Virgin Islands at 56, Belize at 59 and Costa Rica at 63.
Countries in the Caribbean identified by the CDC as “do not travel” include: the Bahamas, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Grenada, Guyana, Panama, Saint Lucia, Sint Maarten, St. Kitts and Nevis and Turks & Caicos,
The United States Embassy in Barbados officially issued a Level 4 Travel Health Notice warning on Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke and Anegada on Tuesday.
With the omicron variant now present in most countries, flare-ups took place in every region of the world.
The number of cases soared by 210 percent in Asia, 142 percent in the Middle East, 126 percent in the Latin America-Caribbean region and 59 percent in Oceania.
In the United States and Canada cases rose 31 percent and they were up a quarter in Europe.
Africa stood alone in seeing an improvement, with an 11 percent drop.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 infections are reaching new peaks in the Americas with 7.2 million new cases and more than 15,000 COVID-related deaths in the last week, according to PAHO.
Given a shortage of testing, PAHO recommended that countries prioritize rapid antigen tests for people with COVID-19 symptoms and who are at risk of spreading the virus.
Even though more than 60 percent of people in Latin America and the Caribbean have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Omicron is spreading rapidly in all regions, said PAHO Incident Manager Sylvain Aldighieri.
The variant’s advance in coming weeks and months will depend on public health measures to contain it, including use of masks and social distancing and above all vaccinations, to reduce the severity of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, he said.
Brazil reported a record 137,103 cases of the coronavirus in 24 hours as Omicron spread in Latin America’s largest country, the Health Ministry said on Tuesday, as new infections soared above the previous daily record of 115,228 in June last year.
Brazil has the world’s third highest death toll from COVID-19 after the United States and Russia, according to a Reuters tally.
(REUTERS contributed to this report)