By Gabriel Araujo and Steven Grattan
SAO PAULO (Reuters) -COVID-19 cases in the Americas increased by 12.7% last week from the prior week, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Wednesday, as infections continued to rise in Central and North America.
The Americas reported more than 616,000 new cases last week, while the death toll was down by less than 1% in the same comparison to 4,200, the organization said.
PAHO's director, Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, called for stronger measures to tackle the pandemic as cases and hospitalizations rise.
"COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are rising in far too many places, which should prompt us to strengthen our measures to combat the virus, including surveillance and preparedness," Etienne told a news conference.
"We must reach those who remain unvaccinated with the full COVID-19 vaccine primary series, and ensure access to boosters, especially to the most vulnerable," she added.
According to PAHO, cases were up for the fifth consecutive week in North America, rising 19.5%. That was driven by a 27.1% increase in the United States as new infections declined in Canada and Mexico.
Central America posted a 53.4% rise in infections in the same comparison, PAHO said, while the Caribbean reported a 15.4% increase in new infections, with cases rising in 24 of the 34 countries and territories.
South America posted an overall 8% drop in new infections, even as seven of its ten countries reported increases.
(Reporting by Gabriel Araujo and Steven Grattan in Sao PauloEditing by John Stonestreet and Matthew Lewis)