(Jamaica Observer )WASHINGTON, United States — The Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Carissa F Etienne, is urging Caribbean countries to prepare to manage outbreaks of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) for the next two years.

“In the absence of effective treatments or a widely available vaccine, we expect that over the next two years the Region of the Americas will experience recurring COVID-19 outbreaks, which may be interspersed with periods of limited transmission,” Etienne said during a press briefing today.

“In the face of a fast-changing pandemic, leadership will make or break our response. Now is the time for leaders to reach across political divisions and geographic borders to rally the support for a response commensurate to this unprecedented crisis,” she added.

Cases of COVID-19 in the Americas have topped 4.5 million, with 226,000 deaths as of June 23. Since last month, cases have tripled in Latin America and the Caribbean from almost 690,000 in May 23, to more than two million today.

“There is now widespread transmission in most of Central America. In South America this weekend, Brazil surpassed one million COVID-19 cases, joining the United States as the only other country in the world with cases in the six digits. The Caribbean is faring better but with hot-spots on the border of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, as well as within the Guyanese shield,” Etienne said.

“We must be realistic about the future: all of us must adjust to a new way of life and redefine our sense of normal.”