(GFR Media)

Health authorities in Puerto Rico, as well as society as a whole, are called upon to urgently and aggressively address the threat of the coronavirus, already declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization.

Local and federal health agencies on the island should intensify measures to protect the population, particularly the elderly and people with compromised immune systems due to other conditions. Both segments represent a significant portion of the island's population.

The WHO said that, although international attention has been focused on the declaration of a pandemic, it is a word that indicates that the conditions of the epidemic have spread globally. The organization stressed that the most powerful words at this time are prevention, preparedness, public health, political leadership and, above all, people.

The WHO expressed alarm at the rapid spread and severity of the contagion, but especially at the levels of inaction by government authorities throughout the world. The health organization sent a strong message: all countries can change the course of this emergency through tests to detect, treat, isolate and track the spread, and mobilize response personnel. Localities with few cases can avoid becoming community transmission groups and hot spots. Puerto Rico cannot sit idly by.

By press time, the federal government was debating whether to declare a national emergency, which should strengthen strategies to fight the virus. The local health department has reported that testing for COVID-19 will begin in two weeks. While both governments assume a sense of urgency, citizens must take the necessary precautions when away from home, and stay home if they have symptoms such as those associated with the coronavirus.

It has been more than two months since this highly contagious virus was discovered. Since then, limitations on testing have made it difficult for the medical community to fulfill its mission to have accurate information to implement prevention measures.

Authorities have to prioritize the care response, even before the first case of infection on the island is confirmed. In the face of this eventuality, it is urgent to protect the lives of patients as well as the health of the rest of the community. In 80 percent of mild COVID-19 cases, when the person receives appropriate treatment and suffers no complications, they manage to recover within two weeks.

The strongest shield against infection is for every citizen to rigorously follow basic practices such as handwashing with soap and water or an alcohol-based disinfectant. Also, maintain a minimum distance of three feet from anyone who sneezes. When coughing or sneezing, each person should cover himself or herself with his or her elbow or a tissue. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth because your hands may have come in contact with contaminated surfaces.

At this stage of the health challenge posed by the impact of COVID-19 on the island, it is important not to give in to hysteria and disinformation to maintain community solidarity which we showed in the face of extreme challenges such as the hurricanes and the January earthquake.It is really important to focus on the elderly, as well as on citizens with conditions that limit their mobility or understanding. Beyond our family members, our solidarity must be extended to people who live alone to prevent them from lacking in hydration, food, and cleanliness.

The WHO has urged to acknowledge that by acting together to overcome this challenge, it is possible to do the right thing to protect the people. We welcome and reiterate the invitation of the global organization, convinced that, once again, humanity will be successful and more united in the face of this challenge.

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