"We (PAHO/WHO Belize Country Office) are teleworking,” said Dr. Jack. “We continue to support Belize, as the PAHO country office, providing technical cooperation. The work has not stopped; it has intensified."
PAHO/WHO Representative Dr. Noreen Jack appeared on the Love FM’s “COVID-19 Update Belize Show” on Monday, April 20, 2020. As a follow-up to her appearance on April 7, Dr. Jack updated hosts, Mr. Ernesto Vasquez and Mr. Troy Gabb, on PAHO/WHO’s efforts to support the country in its response to and readiness for COVID-19.
At the time of the first appearance, many media houses were referencing PAHO’s role in training two Belizean laboratory technicians, enabling the country to conduct initial testing. The focus had been on clarifying PAHO’s role in working with the Belize Ministry of Health.
“We (PAHO/WHO) provide technical cooperation to member states during normal times; but, at this time, it is very focused on COVID-19,” said Dr. Jack. “We work closely with the Ministry of Health primarily, but we also work with other ministries, agencies, and partners.”
Even though media mentions have highlighted PAHO’s support in the procurement of PPEs, conducting assessments of isolation and quarantine centers and training of quarantine volunteers, the follow-up appearance allowed Dr. Jack to remind the country not to lose gains in equally important areas of health. In Belize, important achievements have been made, for example, toward the elimination of maternal to child HIV transmission and prevention of indigenous cases of Malaria.
Although the focus is currently on COVID-19 preparedness and response, the PAHO/WHO office continues to work in areas of non-communicable and communicable diseases as well as health system strengthening. These areas remain relevant and are a crucial part of planning for ‘life after COVID-19.’
In the interim, however, it seems that Belizeans are sharply focused on the new Coronavirus, especially after the first diagnosed case on March 23 and the subsequent state-issued quarantines, curfews, and shutdowns that have followed. When prompted to comment on the PAHO/WHO Regional Director for the Americas, Dr. Carissa F. Etienne’s, recent warning for Caribbean countries to prepare for the expected impact of COVID-19, Dr. Jack commented that Belize, like other Caribbean countries, hasn’t experienced ongoing community transmission.
“There’s a lot of work that is being done by the Ministry of Health in terms of case finding, contact tracing,” said Dr. Jack. “The country has enacted regulations to enforce social distancing. Now that the country has only a few clusters of cases, there is an opportunity to focus on strengthening the ability of the health systems to respond and to contain the infection so it does not overwhelm our health systems.”
Dr. Jack concluded by reminding the audience of solidarity in an age of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We’re all in this together and we’re all working hard to understand something that is new to us,” said Dr. Jack. “Because we have so few cases right now, Belize has an opportunity to make the changes to prevent the spread."
We invite you to view both interviews below: