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The number of COVID 19 cases in Guyana is increasing alarmingly. On Sunday 20 September, 101 new cases were reported and on Monday, 21 September, 133, bringing the total number of cases to 2,402 and deaths to 67. We also note that 140 positive cases of COVID 19 have been detected among the prison population at Lusignan.
It is obvious that at this rate, Guyana and Guyana’s health services will very soon become overwhelmed, leading to shortage of hospital beds and insufficient medical professionals to look after the sick. We recognize the progress made by the new government and minister of health in increased testing, training, hospital beds, availability of PPE for the medical profession and equipment. We commend the daily reporting of new infections, home isolations, deaths, recoveries, ICU numbers and other data. We are deeply grateful to our doctors, nurses and other health professionals for their service and commitment in addressing this terrible pandemic and putting their lives at risk while helping to saving ours.
But in spite of the progress, the increase of cases and deaths needs to be addressed in a more comprehensive manner. The Guyanese people need to be better informed about the measures being put in place to reduce the spread of COVID 19 and the enforcement of such measures. A comprehensive, detailed health plan is needed and needs to be publicised.
A viable vaccine is months if not a year or more away. We have heard from the minister of health that the GPH has been using chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine to treat patients in the ICU. We are aware that the WHO and the CDC have advised against and the use of these as they have not been proven to be effective, so we wonder why they are still being used.
We would like to know what the National COVID 19 Task Force’s plan is for addressing the pandemic. We need to know about Caribbean expertise for COVID 19 response and how this can continue to be made available to Guyana. COVID 19 is all of our business and full transparency and a comprehensive health plan are essential for progress and effectiveness. We want to hear frequently from the head of PAHO in Guyana regarding his assessment and recommendations for COVID 19 responses.
We note the new approach recommended by WHO, that persons testing positive but with no obvious symptoms of COVID 19 be confined to their homes. We would, however, urge that further information on and assessments of the success of this new approach, such as recoveries and lack of transmission to other household members, be made available to the public.
We are deeply concerned about plans for the reopening Guyana’s airports to commercial travel. Commercial travel has been a major cause of the spread of COVID 19 and countries that allowed commercial travel have in many cases been forced to re-impose bans and previous restrictions. Best practices adopted all over the world for the re-opening of airports for commercial travel require a decrease of COVID 19 cases. This is not at all the case in Guyana, where we are seeing a rapid increase. There are best practices available all over the world for reducing the spread of COVID 19. In the Caribbean, Barbados and other small Caricom island states have been very effective in curtailing the spread. New Zealand is another country that Guyana can learn from.
The health and safety of every Guyanese citizen must be the priority. Guyana needs a plan to address the challenges of COVID 19 in an inclusive, transparent and comprehensive way. It is be the poor, powerless and vulnerable who are most at risk and who have limited means and resources at their disposal for access to the best treatment.
We therefore urge that:
A comprehensive, inclusive, transparent and detailed plan for testing, treatment and prevention of the spread of COVID 19 be communicated effectively to all citizens in Guyana
Treatment for hospitalized COVID 19 patients follow best practices and be informed by WHO expertise and recommendations
The National Task Force be revamped, recognise and implement best medical practices, and as a priority interface in an organized ongoing way with key sectors of the population, including marginalized groups such as women, indigenous people and the disabled. The loss of jobs and increasing financial stress and insecurity has to be addressed in a comprehensive way which prioritizes the most vulnerable in society.
Strict enforcement of curfew and other preventative measures including wearing of masks, recommended hygiene practices, restrictions on gatherings and social distancing be enforced nationally and call on all Guyanese to observe fully such measures.
The assessments and recommendations of Guyana’s resident representative of PAHO be communicated directly to the Guyanese people. This will help in confidence building and transparency.
Plans for the opening of Guyana’s airports be re-evaluated in the wake of the sharp increase of COVID 19 cases and should be dependent on a decline in the number of new cases.
Karen de Souza