There are about 25 countries severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The United States, the world’s most powerful nation is now the epicenter of the pandemic but most of the severely affected states are in Europe.
There is a striking similarity in the graphs of total cases, new cases and deaths in all of the severely affected countries. Yesterday, one of the experts on the Task Force advising Donald Trump noted that in all of the US states, the patterns are similar.
These patterns suggest that there is a sudden uncontrollable and exponential rise in the number of cases and deaths. Countries have been lulled into complacency by initially only having a few cases, only to see a sudden lift-off of new cases and deaths. And when this happens, the situation can become uncontrollable, as it is now in Spain and Italy.
It takes on average more than six weeks after social restrictions – lockdowns, social distances and self-isolation – before there can be any significant reduction in the number of cases and deaths. This has been the experience of China and is what data modeling is predicting in the USA. This is one of the reasons why the US does not expect the curve to turn until the end of April by which time thousands more are going to die.
Guyana therefore has to look at the trends. Even without the benefit of its own data experts and epidemiologists, Guyana can predict what is likely to happen: the situation will get worse before it gets better but it will get far worse unless drastic action is taken now.
Guyana has lost critical time. The first coronavirus case, an imported case, was recorded, almost three weeks ago. Immediately, the borders should have been closed but it was not until the 19th that this was done. As a result, we had other suspected imported and local cases. By yesterday, there were eight confirmed cases.
This may not appear like a bad situation. Except that testing levels have been so low that no one is sure how many infected persons are in the general population. However, we can look at the patterns in other countries and predict that there is a high possibility of a large number of unreported cases within the society, which can lead to a sudden and disastrous spike.
There is supposed to be an Inter-Ministerial Task Force addressing this pandemic. But what we find is that the Task Force has not been the one providing any briefings or advisories on the matter. This is being done by the Ministry of Health, which has been giving insufficient information on the local situation.
We are hearing about 1,000 calls to the hotlines. But there has been no breakdown provided as to how many of these calls were deemed to have unearthed suspected cases and how many persons, from these calls were advised to self-quarantine. This is important data to which the public is entitled in order to better understand this pandemic.
It would appear from an examination of the statistical graphs in the 25 most affected countries that Guyana should have long increased social restrictions. This newspaper has called for a lockdown similar to what is taking place in Trinidad and Tobago and in Suriname where only essential services are being allowed.
The curfews, which have been implemented in Linden and New Amsterdam, are not evidence-based. They will be ineffective because they impose social distancing during a period when more than 80 percent of the catchment population are in their homes.
This idea that large numbers of persons are out partying, dining and imbibing is misplaced. Things are tough for the average citizen. There are people who are struggling to find money to put food on the table every day. They have to work every day to do this and this is something that will not be easy for many. Only on weekends, there is a significant number of persons who are in the restaurants and bars.
This is one of the main challenges of any lockdown – people have to earn a livelihood and any lockdown will impose grave hardships. But unless there is some form of a lockdown, except for essential services, Guyana will be in big problems when the coronavirus curve launches upwards as it is doing in Spain, Italy and the USA.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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