A month ago Haiti’s number of COVID-19 infections barely registered on the global radar screen. But a leading medical group warns that has now changed alarmingly.
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At the end of April, Haiti had reported only 81 new coronavirus cases and eight deaths. Those COVID-19 figures have since spiked to more than 3,000 cases and 50 deaths. The international medical nonprofit Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) says that due to a lack of testing, the count is likely much higher.
“We are now in an exponential situation," says Stephane Doyon, an operations manager for Doctors Without Borders, which last month opened a COVID-19 treatment center in Port-au-Prince.
"So we’re filling up more rapidly than what we projected. Within Port-au-Prince you have some very crowded area where social distancing is very hard to implement.”
Doyon points out another challenge is the social stigma coronavirus infection still carries in Haiti. That often prevents Haitians from getting tested or treated quickly enough.
“What we’ve experienced is we have several people that died very quickly because they came too late," says Doyon. "We couldn’t do anything for them.”
Haiti’s growing crisis is reflected across Latin America and the Caribbean – which scientists say is the global hotspot for COVID-19’s second wave.