For more than a year, as the world battled high volumes of COVID-19 infections and deaths, Haiti stood out as a mysterious outlier with its relatively few reported cases of coronavirus. Now, as most countries prepare for a post-pandemic world, with safer norms, Haiti seems to be approaching the crisis levels other nations are leaving behind.
To exacerbate matters, Haiti only has 200 and 240 COVID-19 beds for the country’s 11.5 million people, the country’s health minister said in a recent press conference. Put another way, that’s one hospital bed per 48,000 to 58,000 people, or one per 53,000 on average.
The lack of infrastructure has prompted public health officials to sound the alarm as cases began to rise last month.
“The country will need additional health capacity,” said Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, regional director for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO), in a media briefing last week. “There is no time to waste.”
For the first 15 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of cases were low. Scientists marveled at how low in cases Haiti remained, even as people returned to a normal life with no mask or sanitizing protocols observed. Large gatherings are common and Haitian National Championships soccer matches have been taking place without social distancing and masks.