There is something much more serious than the threat of violence should the loser in next Monday’s general elections not accept defeat. The discovery of the first case of the coronavirus in the tropics, and right next door to Guyana in Brazil, is a most terrifying development.
Health authorities in Sao Paulo have confirmed that a 61-year-old person who had traveled earlier to Italy was Brazil’s first confirmed case of the coronavirus. Sao Paulo is a very far away from Guyana but Brazil has a large population which can increase the spread of the virus inside and outside the country.
If the coronavirus reaches Guyana, only God can help us. The health authorities will be overwhelmed by the infection. Guyana may have to seek urgent international help. And only one country is likely to help us: Cuba.
I would like to know how many of our local personnel will actually be agreeable to treating persons with the virus. A few weeks ago, there was almost panic when fake news was spread about a confirmed case in Berbice.
The coronavirus is diagnosed through a testing procedure which requires a coronavirus kit. In California, it is being reported that there were only about 200 testing kits for the virus. So, one has to ask what about Guyana and its preparedness for any outbreak of the virus.
On 29th January this year, the daily newspapers reported Guyana’s health authorities as claiming that Guyana was prepared for the coronavirus. That perhaps is the exaggeration of the century. No country can ever really be prepared for a pandemic. And the coronavirus can become a pandemic unless its spread is dramatically halted.
One local newspaper at that time quoted the authorities as saying that Cabinet had been informed that the Ministry of Health was utilising ‘stocks’ that were brought last year and in the first quarter of this year. The report did not explain what ‘stocks’ was being referred to.
It could not have been ‘stocks’ for the testing of the virus because last week, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Guyana reported that it was only the previous day, February 19 that Guyana became in a position to test for the coronavirus.
If Guyana only had the capability to test for the coronavirus on 19th February, how then could it, one month earlier, be said to be prepared for the virus?
The coronavirus will not overwhelm the local health system; it will also place a serious strain on the economy. Guyana cannot afford the economic costs of dealing with the coronavirus.
The virus is already creating havoc in global stock markets. Stock markets have fallen for the sixth straight day on account of fears of the rapid spread of the virus outside of China.
Oil prices are also beginning to fall. US crude prices have fallen to a twelve-month low on account of the fears caused by the coronavirus. West Texas intermediate, which is used a benchmark for crude prices fell to US$46.46.
Brent crude, another benchmark was down at US$51.36 or by US$2.02. Projections are that the low prices may be sustained right through to April this year.
This is not good news for Guyana. If the price of oil falls below US$45 per barrel, it makes no economic sense for production to continue in Guyana. Open oil has calculated the average total costs of production at around US$27.50 per barrel but with financing costs, this can be as high as US$30 per barrel.
Since oil is non-renewable, the oil companies are not inclined usually to increase production when prices are low.
The coronavirus could therefore hurt local oil production. This will place in jeopardy all those fancy promises which our local politicians are making as Election Day gets closer, without considering what it will cost the treasury to fulfill those promises.
The costs dealing with a local epidemic of the virus will mop up all the oil revenues, which Guyana will earn this year. Nothing will be left to do what the politicians say they will do.
The authorities have to be careful about telling the public that Guyana is prepared for the virus. When one factors in what it will require to stop the spread of this virus, to treat those sick, to monitor our ports and compensate for the economic fallout, the entire year’s oil revenues can end up having to be used to stop the corona threat.
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