Common sense has not prevailed

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—President Ali says as he promises enhanced COVID enforcement
….Task Force to target businesses breaching protocols, to face the brunt of the law

By Lisa Hamilton

Guyanese President Irfaan Ali said that it is a struggle for his government to slap penalties on persons breaching the national COVID-19 guidelines when putting them in jail could further influence the spread of COVID-19.

As a means to navigate the challenges, he has called on Prime Minister, Mark Phillips to discuss with the National COVID-19 Task Force, shifting the focus from individual breachers to businesses and business owners.
“We had hoped that common sense would have prevailed in following the established guidelines and, unfortunately, it hasn’t. The enforcement, therefore, of these guidelines will be further strengthened and enhanced,” the President said, addressing the media at
State House.

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ENFORCEMENT IS TRICKY

Enforcement, thus far, has been a challenge for the Ali Administration. The President said that this is due to the nature of COVID-19 which influences the way in which law enforcement tackles it.

“If we take all 1,000 persons into a police station we’re creating another disaster. I just gave this example to highlight the challenge we face and the requirement for Guyanese to understand that their lives matter…they cannot be this reckless,” he said, adding:

“So, I’ve asked the Prime Minister to discuss with the Task Force how we now shift the focus on the owners of these facilities and the managers of these facilities. So, if the owners and managers allow these breaches at their facilities then they’ll be charged at the full extent of the law.”

Still, he said that the irresponsibility of some is costing the Government which now has to channel more resources to enforcement aside from health and awareness.

He agreed with the media that the current fines for breaching COVID-19 protocols are inadequate and pointed out that Attorney General, Anil Nandlall has been requested to review the same for improvement.
VACCINES ARE IMPORTANT

Meanwhile, the President also emphasised the importance of as many Guyanese as possible being vaccinated as a means towards achieving herd immunity. “Science has concluded that vaccination is the only way out. My Government has launched an exceptionally aggressive vaccination programme to achieve herd immunity in the shortest possible time frame,” he said.

Though sourcing vaccines is a global challenge, the President said that Guyana remains committed to the cause. While some Guyanese remain skeptical and reluctant to take the vaccines, President Ali said that this is being addressed by engaging civil society, political parties, the private sector and religious bodies for a “national coalition” that dispels misinformation.

Even with this in mind, he said that the Government has noticed that the introduction of a mass vaccination passport is being contemplated by many counties and Guyana is currently making its own assessment on the same.

“Some countries are contemplating that right now, we will have to contemplate all of these options at some point because we cannot put our collective health at risk by a few who do not understand the importance of all of us getting vaccinated to get out of this together,” the Head of State explained.

Regardless of whether a person is vaccinated or not, President Ali reminded that all must adhere to the COVID-19 guidelines.

Asked by the media to grade his Administration’s management of the pandemic even as April is now the deadliest month for the pandemic for the year, the President said that, though he will not provide a grade, his Government has performed better than initially predicted by PAHO/WHO as it relates to cases.

Even with the rise in cases and deaths, he said that the Task Force is pleased with the current curfew and currently sees no need for its adjustment. What is needed, he said, are strategies to improve enforcement, adherence, engagement and education.



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