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…Dr Cummings warns vaccine alone will not combat pandemic
A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Shadow Health Minister, Dr. Karen Cummings said, in part, the updated COVID-19 Emergency Measures will put Guyana at risk of experiencing an even greater increase in COVID-19 cases.
The updated measures have paved way for casinos, betting shops and cinemas to operate at a capacity of 60% as against 40% as previously announced. Also, the restriction for concession stands at cinemas has been removed. For food entities, buffet dining is no longer prohibited but self-service buffet dining is. Also, the capacity per table has been increased from four to no more than six.
The updated measures are being implemented at a time country is experiencing a rapid increase in the number of COVID-19 cases and related deaths. Presently, the country has over 1,900 active COVID-19 cases of which 222 are new. As of Wednesday, 34 persons were in the COVID-19 ICU while 624 persons have died.
“One would have thought that good sense would have prevailed, and the Ministry of Health and its team would have taken a step back and do some introspection and [assess] the gaps…but here we are, there is an uptick in cases, it is skyrocketing, the deaths and confirmed cases and home isolation as well with no proper guidelines…,” Dr. Cummings said during a press conference on Thursday.
She said with the Health Ministry allowing for restaurants and bars to operate at 60% capacity, there will more than likely be “super spreader events.”
Dr. Cummings said though the World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom has underscored the importance of working collectively to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, “this Government continues to act unilaterally as it makes pertinent decisions that involve the Guyanese people.”
The APNU+AFC Shadow Health Minister in the National Assembly said the National COVID-19 Task Force (NCTF) has failed to prevent the increasing spread of the virus and inequities in healthcare delivery. It was pointed out that while unvaccinated nurses and other healthcare workers in Regions Four and 10 have been barred from entering hospitals and other medical institutions due to their inability to produce a COVID-19 vaccination card or negative PCR COVID-19 test result, the situation is not the same in Region Six.
“…the Task Force does not understand that there is a direct relationship between a person’s health and social economic circumstance. Though systemic racism is evident, I challenge the government to work systematically to change systemic racism to inclusion, and to consider the social risks such as the impact of non employment and the lack of transportation which have been found to improve health outcomes,” Dr. Cummings said.
Further, the former Health Minister said while vaccines are important, powerful and effective public health tools in the fight against COVID-19, the Government has not done enough awareness to inform the public on the efficacy and safety of the available vaccines here in Guyana.
“The Government and the Ministry of Health should seek to educate the public about the vaccines and encourage voluntary participation without threats. There must be ongoing communication to ensure comfort…,” Dr. Cummings urged.
That aside, Dr. Cummings said while the APNU+AFC Coalition is not against vaccination, it is not in support of “forced” vaccination. The imposition of the vaccines on the Guyanese populace, she said, comes at a time when new variants, such as Delta and Mu, are emerging and have a possibility of being resistant to the vaccines, particularly in the case of the Mu COVID-19 variant.
Additionally, she pointed out that to date, the Sputnik-V vaccine has not received WHO approval. Only Pfizer has received full approval from the FDA. Together with AstraZeneca, Sinopharm, Moderna, Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer has been received emergency use authorization from WHO.
Nonetheless, she said vaccine alone cannot combat the disease, noting that there needs to be a holistic approach.