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The PPP/C Government is evincing a reckless disregard for the loss of Guyanese lives due to the COVID-19 Virus.
I created the legal framework, as the then Attorney General of Guyana, to combat the COVID-19 Pandemic, to save lives and not for any Government to have a studied indifference to the emergency measures as the COVID-19 creates a killing field in Guyana.
The data to date, shows that between March 2020 to July 30, 2020 under the APNU/AFC’s watch the COVID-19 death toll was 21 deaths; for the months of August 2020 to January 2021 it was 177 (similar period) and the death toll is presently 277 on Friday 23 April, 2021. It is not by serendipity that there is this glaring disparity in the stewardships of the two Governments.
At the outset the COVID-19 Emergency Measures (No.2) introduced a very strict regime just short of a total lockdown. It aimed to keep people in their homes and yard spaces and off of our streets unless they were essential workers or were going to markets, supermarkets, pharmacies, banks, gas stations along with a few other places.
The curfew was from 6:00 pm to 6:00 am, and only essential workers could be out of their homes for 24 hours because only Essential Services could carry on operations for 24 hours. The shopping visits to markets etc were confined to the hours of 6:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Moreover, workers in both the Public Service and Private Sector were required to work at home remotely and there were some provisions for rotation of certain workers. Essential workers and others found on the road could be stopped by a member of the Guyana Police Force, required to produce any official identification or work identification and could be arrested and charged if failing to so do.
Both the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) and the Eugene F. Correia International Airport were closed to international flights save for a few exceptions and domestic travel too was severely restricted; vehicles, vessels and aircrafts being subjected to half their normal capacity and the requirements of masking, social distancing and sanitizing.
Should I mention the closure of Churches, Mosque, Temples and other places of religious worship, Bars, Restaurants, Spas, Beauty Salons, Barbershops etc. It was tight, very tight! It was only early August 2020 that some slackening took place and some stores, hair salons, places of worship, outdoor dining were encouraged. The capacities of vehicles, vessels and aircrafts moved from 50% to 75%. I could go on and on…But let’s look at the first Emergency Measures under the current Government; COVID-19 Emergency Measures (No.8) dated the 14th August, 2020.
The curfew was moved to 9:00pm to 5:00am. A major move was the removal of working remotely from home and replacing it with rotation, allowing thousands of public servants and private sector workers back on the roads again, in mini-buses and hire cars to go to and from work.
The Government’s current Emergency Measures (No.16) dated 31st March 2021 continued the opening up and this despite exponential increases in Covid-19 deaths. The curfew is now from 10:30pm to 4:00am, resulting in restaurants and bars being awash with revellers way beyond the curfew period. The capacity in places of worship, restaurants and bars, and indoor dining increased to 40%.
In short, the Government’s opening up of the country including scheduled international flights have resulted in an increase in Covid-19 deaths from August 2020 to the present by over 256 deaths. This is unacceptable and the Government must change course and apply the strict measures that have proved to be successful in saving lives.
Moreover, the Government must take for passage in Parliament provisions for higher fines for breaches of any of the Covid-19 measures. Presently the negligible fines are severely inhibiting the enforcement of these measures. I must acknowledge the actions being taken in relation to the vaccination of the population, and the work of Dr. Carpen, Doctors, Nurses and other frontline workers who are working to save lives with the tools they have been given. However, we must ensure that the Covid-19 Hospital never be a Hotel California: – “We are programmed to receive. You can check-out anytime you like, but you can never leave.” The relatives of persons who have died there are very disconsolate. They could not have visited nor fed them. They are asking, inquiring minds are demanding to know what is or are the medicines, Covid-19 patients are treated with. Nay the Nation wants to know.
Basil Williams SC
Former Attorney General of Guyana