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Every country determines its own travel advisory particularly in this period where the global pandemic (COVID-19) is raging and amidst revelations of new variants (strains) that are said to be more easily transmittable and thereby more dangerous. Factors that inform such decision-making are the country’s capacity to manage the virus, including vaccination, spread, healthcare facilities and personnel. There is this sense listening to Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony, discussing management of the virus that these are not factors of consideration in guiding travel in and out of Guyana.
The Minister would like it to be believed that whilst other countries have placed travel restrictions on persons coming from the United Kingdom (UK), given the rapid transmissible rate of a new strain found in that country, Guyana awaits advice from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) before acting. Even as he previously expressed the view that he was constrained by CARPHA another publication quotes him as saying it does not prevent him from acting. What prevents him?
As Guyana twiddles the UK in the meantime has placed travel restrictions on Guyana and a slew of countries in proximity to Brasil after revelation of new strains discovered in that country. Effective January 26th the United States of America (USA) will require every person entering that country to provide a negative test result of the coronavirus.
Guyana does not have the capacity to manage the virus like the UK and USA but as they place restrictions on persons entering their borders, Guyana’s continue to be opened with limited restrictions. Guyana does not have the technology to identify and isolate some of the new strains and has to rely on verification after sending samples abroad. In the absence of the technological resources Guyana should seek to rely on other measures to minimise infection and spread of new and existing strains.
Guyana’s infection numbers and deaths are escalating but the impression continues to be given that the government does not view the pandemic critically enough to be proactive. There is no need to wait for CARPHA to determine whether Guyana should place restrictions on travelers from the UK or other countries that pose threat to overwhelming an already limited and challenged capacity.
Government officials in the USA are calling for a travel ban from the UK. They are hoping the incoming Joe Biden administration give their plea favourable consideration. A point put forward in support of the ban is that the US cannot grapple with another variant amidst its current challenges managing the original strain.
The tendency to manage crisis, particularly a pandemic, in reactive rather than proactive measures is a bad approach. The saying that prevention is better than cure is most applicable currently. The Government of Guyana needs to assert itself in dealing with the pandemic. They are not giving confidence to the citizens that they care. People are beginning to feel those who contracted the virus or died as a result of are mere statistics not valued human beings in the eyes of the government.
Minister Anthony must take a cue from other societies where systems are put in place to mitigate increase in infection spread. It would add to the chaos and dysfunction of the present management of the virus should the more easily transmissible and dangerous strains become prevalent here.