Despite spiralling Covid-19 rate

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L-R: Minister of Health Dr. Frank Anthony and Opposition MP, Dr. Karen Cummings

…Anthony says he is effectively managing pandemic

By Lisa Hamilton

Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony assured the Opposition and public on Thursday that the Ministry of Health is being proactive in its management of COVID-19 in Guyana, inclusive of monitoring new COVID-19 strains and acquiring ample vaccines.

In oral questions to the Health Minister at Thursday’s Sitting of the National Assembly, Shadow Minister of Health, Dr. Karen Cummings queried where the Ministry’s comprehensive plan for the management of COVID-19 could be found and requested a copy.

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Dr. Cummings said the question was asked because the Health Ministry recently received a field hospital and equipment from Qatar but, upon arrival and initially, there were no staff to facilitate its operation.

In response, Dr. Anthony said that the said plan is “with the stakeholders who are implementing the plan” and is well-suited to manage Guyana’s COVID-19 situation.

The Health Minister said that the plan has various sections including the provision of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) for health workers; increase in testing from 21 tests per day to 450 PCR tests per day, along with testing at private facilities; contact tracing; clinical management of patients; workplace strategies for protecting against COVID-19; COVID-19 economic relief; public education and a vaccine roll-out programme for COVID-19.

Dr. Anthony explained that it is only recently that the Ministry added the matter of the vaccine roll-out programme to its plan and it is only after it has completed this that it can present a copy of the plan to Dr. Cummings as requested.

Regarding the field hospital from Qatar, the Health Minister said: “We’re currently in the process of determining which one of the areas we’re going to set up that facility. Initially, as the Honorable Member said, they wanted to set that up in Region Three and we have made such an analysis of what we can do there and then we thought that maybe we can consolidate it at Ocean View. So, there are still some decisions to be made but, at this point in time.” The field hospital has 60 beds of which 20 can be used as ICU beds.

On Thursday, Dr. Cummings also queried about the plan the Ministry of Health has to deal with the risks to the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines to be received given Guyana’s porous borders and the new strains of COVID-19 circulating in countries as close as Brazil. She questioned whether the Ministry plans to “scale up” the purchasing of vaccines in light of the new strains.

Dr. Anthony responded stating that he is unsure of the connection made by Dr. Cummings with the variant strains and the vaccines but he can assure that Guyana has been noting the various strains emerging while referencing the closure of Guyana’s border with Brazil and the halting of flights between the two countries.

He said the strain found in the United Kingdom (UK) has already been spread to 80 countries; the new strain discovered in Japan in now in 10 different countries while the South African strain is in 40 different countries.

“We are part of a network of 22 laboratories in South America and in the Caribbean that has been monitoring and doing gene sequencing so that we could know of the circulation of the different strains…we have a partnership now with CARPHA where we are sending, every month, at least ten samples to CARPHA so that they can do gene sequencing. We have sent the first ten samples and we are awaiting the results,” he said, noting other partnerships with WHO/PAHO.

The Health Minister also assured that the Government has begun securing adequate vaccines for its population for herd immunity.

In another question, Dr. Cummings asked whether another lockdown or school closure is pending for Guyana to contain the spread of the virus. Dr. Anthony said that lockdowns are always an option but the Government will employ these as it sees fit.



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