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…Region Four Chairman says Gov’t too “soft” with the virus as COVID cases and deaths surge
By Lisa Hamilton
Region Four Regional Chairman, Daniel Seeram is pushing for a one month, nationwide lockdown in Guyana to shift the country from its current path of continuously setting higher monthly records of COVID-19 deaths.
The lockdown he proposes would see the country returning to the 6 PM to 6 AM curfew for a month and any change would be assessed based on the number of deaths and cases. In an interview with the Village Voice News, Seeram spoke about the proposal, the considerations and what he believes would be needed to ensure that Guyanese can survive financially during the period.
TOO LENIENT, TOO SOFT
As Phagwah and the Easter weekend approached, Seeram had made his pitch to the requisite officials. “I would have made a request to the National COVID-19 Task Force (NCTF) for stricter measures in terms of the COVID guidelines. I would have made a personal call and in my capacity as Region Four Chairman, to the COVID Task Force for a lockdown arrangement,” he said. “It would be going back to the 6 to 6 curfew, only having essential persons in movement. Decreasing the amount of persons in public transportation from 100 per cent capacity to about 30 or 40 percent capacity. Also, taking back the dining areas and going back to basically, if you want food you order it and you go and pick it up or it’s delivered,” he said.
Seeram is the Head of the Regional Task Force and the only member of the APNU+AFC on the NCTF by virtue of being the Head of the Regional Task Force. When dealing with the matter of COVID-19 he said that his views are not political but in the interest of the lives and safety of the people. Since the start of the year, Guyana has seen an increase each month in COVID-19 deaths with April being the deadliest month thus far. Seeram believes that the current Administration has been too “lenient” in its management of the virus and a lockdown is what is needed to stop the dangerous climb.
“What we have found in comparison to APNU+AFC’s handling of the COVID measures and the current Government handling of the COVID measures is that the current Government is too relaxed with it. We have to decrease the amount of persons in movement at a point in time. The only way we can decrease this is that we need to tell people to stay home,” the RDC Chairman put forward. “We are too soft and too lenient in terms of dealing with COVID. COVID needs something very strict to deal with it.”
Earlier in April, The Citizenship Initiative (TCI) had also made a similar call stating that it has noticed “an alarming rise in COVID-19 infections and deaths”. The political party also noted concerns such as Guyana’s geographical proximity to Brazil, a neighbouring country that has experienced new strains of the virus said to be more harmful to younger people. Village leaders in Aishalton, located much nearer to Brazil than Region Four, took it upon themselves to establish a one-month lockdown for the village in light of an alarming spark in cases there. As of April 20, some 66 households were under quarantine and some 30 confirmed cases of the virus.
NOT WITHOUT A PLAN
The RDC Chair said that he understands that with a lockdown many citizens would worry about how they would make ends meet financially due to a ‘stay at home’ order.
However, Seeram underscored that under any nationwide lockdown it would be the Government’s responsibility to ensure that expenses such as utility bills are paused or reduced; that food items are provided to the vulnerable and that banks and lending agencies understand that they ought to pause their collections for the period.
“The thing with a one-month lockdown is that it can’t happen haphazardly. When we did the first COVID lockdown we didn’t just snap a finger a say ‘lockdown for everyone’. We put measures in place such as the CDC being ready to give each household relief hampers and sanitization items; utility companies gave waivers. It’s not something that can happen haphazardly. It needs to be a 360-degree effort, every single major stakeholder must be onboard for this lockdown because it’s here to protect all of us,” he explained. Even without a lockdown, Seeram recommended that the Government review the aforementioned measures to ensure that the financial burden on the average Guyanese is removed or reduced.
IT’S NOT POLITICAL
After the surge of COVID-19 deaths and cases in March, the RDC Chair acknowledges that law enforcement amped up its efforts to bring penalties to persons breaching the various measures.
However, consistency is what is needed. While the APNU+AFC Opposition has also made a call for more stringent COVID-19 measures and enforcement, Seeram said that he doesn’t see COVID-19 as a political issue but one that should be of equal concern to all Guyanese despite their political affiliation.
“Needless to say, despite my political affiliations, the work that I do on the National COVID-19 Task Force is not political work but the work of the people,” Seeram said. “We need to flatten the curve because all we’re seeing is that the numbers are rising. Last week Region Four alone had 735 new cases of COVID recorded…just after the Easter weekend, which I iterated for a lockdown, we had 14 deaths in five days and then 18 deaths in 8 days. The statistics were quite alarming and I would have made, again, an iteration to the COVID Task Force for a lockdown and more stringent measures to be put in place.” Seeram intends to continue making representation for the people of Region Four and the country altogether as a member of the NCTF. Apart from the call for a lockdown, he also encourages Guyanese to get vaccinated for COVID-19. He said while the vaccine will not cure or prevent COVID-19 infection, it will boost individuals to fight off the worst of the virus.