Coronavirus in Haiti: the”happy surprise” of a low virulence

Coronavirus en Haïti: l’«heureuse surprise» d’une faible virulence

Deserted to comply with the measures barriers, the olympic center of haiti has been converted in to a emergency hospital dedicated to the Covid-19 but the empty beds line up by the dozens in the gyms: the disaster feared has so far not taken place.

“We have been open for two weeks and, to date, we have received two patients,” said dr. Rudy Sylien who manages this treatment centre located on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince.

Mattress still in plastic, a large part of the material, freshly purchased in China by the haitian government, has been arranged in rooms normally devoted to the practice of karate or table tennis.

Same dormitories designed for athletes have been requisitioned to facilitate the rotation of doctors, nurses and health assistants.

160 beds, a patient

“The medical staff assigned to the building supports works by rolling the three days. They therefore remain on place: it feeds and hosts them “, explains Dr. Sylien.

Nearly two hundred people are assigned to work at the olympic training centre, in capacity to accommodate 160 patients, but where, during a visit Tuesday to the media, only one patient was hospitalized.

“This surprises us, but at the same time, we can say that we were lucky,” admits Dr. Sylien along the rows of empty beds.

In the Face of the olympic centre is surrounded by the hills named Canaan: in the wake of the 2010 earthquake, tens of thousands of Haitians have taken up residence in utter anarchy.

To Canaan, and in poor neighborhoods, densely populated metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince, epidemiologists feared a public health disaster: a worst-case scenario, which is for the time being, therefore, not product.

The projections of the more alarmist predicted the deaths of more than 20 000 people in the country with 11.2 million inhabitants. According to the latest report, published Monday evening, among 5324 individuals tested positive, 89 died

“It is a happy surprise. We are prepared, for example, to reach the capacity of the centre of Canaan to 600 beds if necessary, ” said to the AFP dr. Jean-William Pape.

Having acquired an international fame for his work at the beginning of years 80, in the face of the HIV/Aids epidemic, infectious diseases physician haitian acknowledges bluntly that the official statistics may not be representative of the magnitude of the epidemic in the country.

“There are deaths that are not identified because people are dying without being tested, as anywhere in the world,” says Dr. Pope, who adds, however, that ” the peak has been reached for the area of Port-au-Prince: the number of cases is falling. “

Strain less ” evil “

While Latin America has become the epicenter of the pandemic, the evolution of the virus in Haiti, the poorest country on the continent where the health infrastructures are weaker, there is already scientific research.

“I think that the strain that has attacked New York, Northern Italy, France or Spain is more wicked than the one we have here. It is an assumption because we don’t know yet what was the strain that we have here: we have samples and we will study them “, announces Jean-William Pape.

Less connected to the global economy, away from to receive the flow of international tourists who stay in the nearby islands of the Caribbean, Haiti has belatedly recorded a spread of the new coronavirus.

“We’ve learned from the mistakes of others,” says Dr. Pope, who also knows the resilience with which his fellow citizens are forced.

“These are people who are very hard: after two days of fever, they get up to go to work because, if they don’t work, they don’t eat,” said the doctor.

To die of hunger today or the coronavirus tomorrow: while containment is impossible for a majority of the population surviving on a daily basis in the informal economy.

This is why scientists haitians remain screaming victory and caution.

“If the epidemic is on the decline in Port-au-Prince, it’s going to continue in the rest of the country, particularly with people who returned from the dominican Republic,” says Dr. Pope.

According to the international Organization for migration, 47 000 Haitians have left the neighboring country since the beginning of the epidemic, without necessarily passed through one of the four points of border officials where health checks may be carried out.

Sharing the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, the dominican Republic, identified to date, almost 28 000 patients, coronaviruses, of which 675 are deceased.

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