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…to establish COVID-19 response unit, boost testing
President Irfaan Ali on Saturday announced that his government has commenced work on securing immediately an initial sum of $4.5 billion as emergency response to help households as Guyana augments its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said too that he will be creating a new Covid-19 Response Unit comprising government policymakers to help fight the spread of the disease that has killed 21 persons here so far. Ali told a gathering at his inauguration ceremony on Saturday that the unit will be represented by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Health and include regional and international partners such as CARICOM, PAHO, and UNDP. He said the unit will be guided by a collaborative policy to address medical responses and to create a COVID-19 impact socio-economic plan for our people. Since taking office in just one week, Ali said his government has mobilised and received 46,000 rapid antibody-test kits, Personal Protection Equipment, approximately 240,000 surgical masks, and face shields, gowns and other urgently needed supplies.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has already claimed too many lives. Everything possible must be done to protect our people from this dreaded and dreadful disease. That is why, as President, I will personally and urgently participate in my Government’s programme to stop infection by the coronavirus, curb its spread, and safeguard the health of our nation,” Ali told the audience at the National Cultural Centre.
He said after completing a rapid assessment, he has already begun to establish a structure to tackle the virus as effectively as possible.
In addition to the rapid test kits, Ali said Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, is sending an additional 15,000 PCR test kits which are even now en route to Guyana. “By next week we should receive another 10,000 PCR kits from PAHO with a commitment to supply an additional 40,000 PCR kits. We have accessed three PCR testing machines with two more being sourced, and plans are in motion to train persons, including persons from the hinterland areas, in the use of the PCR machines and rapid test kits,” Ali told the audience.
He said too that his government has commenced work on securing immediately an initial sum of $4.5 billion as emergency response to help at the household level. “We met with the Governor of the Central Bank and directed him to extend regulatory permission so as to allow for bankers to continue extending moratoriums. We have also looked at the possibility of adjusting the Reserve Requirement which will allow the banks to have more disposable resources and tying that adjustment with lower interest rates. We have started to examine from a fiscal perspective what support we can give to the private sector and other groups all with the view of supporting a resumption of the economic activities and putting people back to work,” the new Guyanese leader said.
Ali said his government has reached out to several multilateral and bilateral sources with a view to urgently mobilise financial resources of the magnitude that is necessary to overcome the effects of this pandemic. I must say the response has been encouraging. “As you can see, we have hit the ground running. We do not intend to slacken the pace. There is much to be done. We still have a nation to build, and a people to raise up.” Ali said in pursuing this objective, his government will build closer partnerships with CARICOM states and with the United States of America and Canada.
Noting that Guyana was a founding member of CARICOM and before it CARIFTA, Ali said Georgetown remains faithful to the ambitions and expectations of the Caribbean Community. “We are grateful that CARICOM stood by our side in the recent electoral crisis, and that the Community defended democracy by scrutinising the national re-count of the votes of the March 2nd elections, courageously and professionally. History will ever recall that singular role of regional solidarity. But we go further.” Ali said as Guyana looks ahead to more prosperous times, “we look also to enhancing the objectives of the Caribbean Community and the fortunes of all its people – who are our brothers and sisters. We will play our role in CARICOM by joining our sisters-states in seeking a more equitable place for the small states of the world and for developing countries generally. More particularly, we will raise our voice in chorus with other CARICOM countries to combat the existential threat of Climate Change,” Ali noted. He said under his watch, CARICOM will not find Guyana lagging in support for and its duty to the principles, policies, and pledges of regional integration.