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The Citizenship Initiative’s leadership has noticed the alarming rise in Covid-19 infections and deaths attributed to the emergence of several strains of the virus characterized by higher transmissibility. After assessing the situation, and given Guyana’s geographical proximity to Brazil, currently a major global epicenter of the disease, turning out alarming national numbers of infections and deaths (4,000+ deaths per day on multiple occasions) we have begun to see signs that the new variants may have found a foothold in Guyana and can tip our national situation towards critical levels. Because the Covid virus has the potential to spread exponentially over a short period of time, there is a need for swift, decisive and unified action to curb the virus’ advance.
The Hon. Minister of Health Dr. Frank Anthony on April 7th, 2021 has publicly acknowledged that Covid patients are being admitted with a ‘sicker’ form of the virus, meaning one that causes a faster onset of symptoms even in younger, less vulnerable groups. Here is a summary of the local national figures for 14 days (27-Mar to 9-Apr):
Total New Cases Recorded: 951
Total Deaths: 27
Average New Cases per Day: 68
Average Deaths per Day: 2
Regions 3, 4 and 6 continue to be the main hotspots for infections and deaths, which is attributed to the high population density and commercial activity in these areas.
Measures for Consideration
The following measures are proposed to the PPP government for consideration. The Opposition parties, National Covid Taskforce, Ministry of Health, Joint Services, Religious and Society Leaders and Public and Private Sectors will all be expected to play their role in executing measures and monitoring the situation in a collaborative effort. Given the looming urgency of the situation, these measures should be implemented almost immediately after consideration. The week of April 12th -16th can be used to review and iron out the plan. Recommendations are as follows:
From April 19th, reinstate the curfew from 6PM – 6AM Monday – Thursday, and on Friday-Sunday, a total lockdown of all non-essential activity countrywide. The Joint Services and police are to be used to establish strategic command checkpoints from which joint patrols are deployed to provide coverage along the high-density population areas of Regions 3, 4, 5, 6 and 10.
Establish and enforce a mandatory mask mandate for persons traveling daily, whether using public transportation or personal vehicles. Joint Services are to enforce this through inspections, and anyone violating this will be subject to a heavy fine and mandatory quarantine for 14 days (home or institutional).
The immediate closure of all bars, restaurants, clubs, betting/gaming houses, markets, barber shops, salons, malls and other non-essential business entities from April 19th – May 2nd. Cancellation of all sporting competitions and events until follow up Impact Assessment on the effective of measures is conducted. Food markets, supermarkets, pharmacies and hardware stores that sell cleaning supplies to allow only takeaway services or delivery, but are allowed to operate from 6AM – 6PM for pickup, and 6AM – 9PM for delivery. Supermarkets are limited to 50% capacity for shoppers at all times, with current social distancing, mask wearing and sanitizing mandates in full effect.
Immediate closure of the border with Brazil, and restrictions on all incoming and outgoing travel there, except for emergency or diplomatic reasons. All entries to Guyana from Brazil MUST submit a negative Covid test taken no more than 48 hours prior to travel, and MUST submit to INSTITUTIONAL (not home) quarantine for 14 days. No exceptions will be made. Current restrictions in place for other international travel to remain in effect.
Public gatherings of more than 4 persons are to be prohibited, except where approved by the Covid taskforce for the purposes of construction work or other valid reasons. Public weddings, funerals and other social events are not permitted. Anyone found in breach of this should be fined $50,000 and must undergo MANDATORY institutional quarantine for 14-days. Taskforce should set up strategic quarantine facilities countrywide (use of schools, places of worship etc.) that provides adequate social distancing scope. No exceptions.
Setup emergency notification protocols with mobile phone services providers (GTT & Digicel) so important updates, news and guidelines can be communicated quickly countrywide via mass messaging from the Covid taskforce. Utilize other corporations such as DDL, Banks DIH etc. to mobilize sanitation crews to thoroughly sanitize the high-density population zones daily. Use of the army reserves, police recruits and other such personnel are recommended to provide adequate manpower.
Open up the National Covid Vaccination Campaign to ALL citizens and residents, setting up strategic vaccination centers throughout the high-density population areas. Conduct vaccine sensitization campaigns to educate the public and clear up misconceptions or fears about taking the Covid vaccine. Prioritize relaxing measures only in communities where widespread vaccination (at least the first dose) has taken place in at least 80% of the population. This should incentivize other communities to follow suit for an expedited return to ‘normalcy’.
All schools, universities and educational institutions to remain closed. Online learning platforms should be the primary means for delivering education material. The Ministry of Education should be closely monitoring each jurisdiction and reporting real-time changes to the Covid taskforce.
From May 2nd, and fortnightly onward, a comprehensive Impact Assessment of the effectiveness of measures in place to be conducted to determine which areas need extra attention or adjustments. Only when there has been a notable reduction in infections for seven (7) consecutive days can restrictions start to be gradually eased. Data to be made public daily via social media, Covid taskforce website and emergency push notifications mentioned in measure 6.
Closely monitor the regional situation, and liaise with Covid taskforces in neighboring Suriname, Brazil and Venezuela (Suriname has already implemented extra measures after recognizing the threat of the faster spreading variant emanating from Brazil) to share information, updates and strategies. Together, this will provide an accurate snapshot of the regional situation and guide further measures. As the spread of the virus lessens, collaborative decisions to relax restrictions and a GRADUAL return to normalcy can be undertaken, with an end goal as the end of June (Q2) of 2021.
The Citizenship Initiative remains ready to offer its support, manpower and data to the government and other major stakeholders as we work together to break the spread of this virus, safeguard our population and be a responsible sister nation to our regional neighbors.
The Citizenship Initiative