Could Guyana be struggling to implement its contingency plan fully, which is intended to ward off the novel coronavirus [COVID-19] from these shores?
This question has emerged on the heels of multiple reports that have reached this publication which suggest that there are persons currently here in Guyana who travelled from places where the virus was diagnosed but were not screened upon entry.
Among the passengers who were not screened, is Public Health Consultant, Mr. Collin Haynes, who gave a candid account of his experience at one of the two major ports of entry – the Cheddi Jagan International Airport.
Haynes, who resides in the United States and arrived in Guyana just over one week ago, has worked for eight years as a field expert with the United Nations, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, and Global Fund.
The United States has recorded in excess of 800 cases of the virus. More than a score have reportedly died as a result. Across the globe, there have been more than 80,000 persons infected and in excess of 2,000 have died.
Noting that there are several flights between Guyana and the United States on almost a daily basis, an informed Haynes said that some of what has been proposed as part of the local health sector’s response plan is not being implemented, at least not around the clock.
Commenting on what obtained when he arrived, Haynes said, “I think there is a difference between what is being said and what is being done. I hear that they are going to have these screenings and they are going to ask people where did they come from and so forth…
“I didn’t see that when I came in,” Haynes said, admitting that he was not screened in any sense of the word.
Another health professional, who spoke off the record, shared similar sentiments with this publication.
This is not to say that the Ministry has not been screening passengers. According to Chief Medical Officer [CMO], Dr. Shamdeo Persaud, among those who meet the criteria are “…anyone who has travelled to China within the last 21 days and we have extended even for persons coming from that region [Asia].
“A lot of times persons may go through, because of travel routes and airlines and so on, Korea, Japan or to Singapore; there are various ways, so we track those also,” said Dr. Persaud.
The CMO has, however, publicly stated that Guyana’s response to the virus includes having passengers screened upon arrival. That process, he explained, should entail health checks including a temperature check and the completion of a detailed questionnaire to acquire necessary information about their travels.
Thus far, there have been reportedly been in excess of 53 persons who were flagged and screened. According to information out of the Ministry, all reported suspected cases have been ruled out as coronavirus.
Ascertaining this, Mr. Terrence Esseboom, the Ministry’s Public Relations and Health Promotions Officer assured, “As of 4:28 pm [yesterday], two [new] suspected cases were ruled out as negative.”
Suspected cases, according to Esseboom, can only be confirmed after all protocols are followed, including preliminary and subsequent tests.
Guyana has the capacity to complete preliminary tests of samples. Further tests are conducted by other laboratories including the Caribbean Public Health Agency in Trinidad, which caters to member states of the Caribbean Community.
Speaking of measures to shore-up Guyana’s response, Haynes said that keen attention must be directed to the Eugene F. Correia Airport at Ogle, East Coast Demerara as well.
His remarks were forthcoming yesterday and shortly news about Jamaica confirming its first imported case of the virus was trending.
“Folks are coming from the islands as well; people are travelling through from places like London and Europe into Barbados and across here from Trinidad. Therefore, we need to strengthen our ports.
“We need to have a system where people are screened entirely to ensure that they [do not have] any sickness of any kind [whether] it is a cough, or cold or any suspected [coronavirus] symptoms,” said Haynes.
The virus is manifested with flu-like symptoms including cough and can develop into pneumonia.
Essentially, the virus is of such that it can tremendously batter an already weakened immune system, hence elderly persons and those with underlying conditions are encouraged to stay away from anyone suspected to be infected or avoid places where the virus might have contaminated.
This is particularly important to note, Haynes said, since it has been established that the virus can be transmitted from one person to another even without them coming into physical contact.
But Haynes is convinced that Guyana may have a natural advantage that could possibly help to prevent an outbreak of the virus.
“I don’t think we should hit the panic button…One of the things I want to mention; we have something good working for us. Coronavirus lives in anything [host] between 20 and 30 degrees Celsius approximately; it gets hotter here…Pretty much in South America, we are seeing some cases but not a lot of alarming cases. That’s a plus that we have,” Haynes theorised.
He has moreover lauded the move by the Ministry of Public Health, which together with its partners, will today from 09:00 to 11:00 hours host a coronavirus symposium at the National Cultural Centre [NCC] aimed at raising more awareness about the national response and other related matters.
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