COVID infections, deaths dropping across the Americas -health agency
Vaccination

COVID-19 is slowly retreating across most of North, Central and South America, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Wednesday, reporting that last week the continent's death and infection figures were the lowest in over a year.

Many of the larger Caribbean islands are seeing downward trends, including Cuba, the site of a major COVID-19 outbreak for months.

However, Paraguay saw a doubling of coronavirus cases in the last week and Belize a sharp jump in COVID-related deaths, the regional health agency said in a briefing.

"We have reason to be optimistic, but we must remain vigilant," PAHO Assistant Director Jarbas Barbosa said.

He urged authorities to continue to implement public health measures like mask-wearing, social distancing and limiting large gatherings, especially as many countries are still struggling to expand vaccine coverage.

Nearly 44% of people in Latin America and the Caribbean have completed their COVID-19 immunizations, thanks largely to donations, made bilaterally or through the World Health Organization-led COVAX facility.

"Today, twice as many people in Latin America and the Caribbean are fully vaccinated against COVID than in August," Barbosa said.

But in Guatemala, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Jamaica, Nicaragua and Haiti less than 20% have been fully vaccinated, he said.

Over three million more doses will arrive in the region through COVAX this week, as deliveries pick up in the final months of the year, Barbosa said.

(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; editing by Jonathan Oatis and John Stonestreet)