The government has belatedly announced a partial lockdown of the country after four more coronavirus cases were confirmed on Friday. The total number of confirmed cases now stands at 23.
It was only last Sunday, one week ago, that this newspaper issued a front page comment. It pointed to the grave dangers which lie ahead and called for a lockdown.
The newspaper noted the casualness with which Guyanese were moving around the country, and suggested that they were not taking the threat seriously. It reminded the country of the various advisories which the government had issued, and the fact that the limited testing which was being done would understate the actual numbers of carriers of the virus.
It speculated that things may be far worse than they appear. At the time, the total number of confirmed cases had risen from four to eight. Kaieteur News was prophetic when it said that we may have already crossed the danger threshold.
It called for a lockdown. “Businesses”, it said, “which do not provide non-essential services should be closed immediately. A curfew from 8 am to 6 pm each day should be imposed. Bars, casinos and gambling places should be closed all day. Public gatherings, including religious services or sporting events, of more than 10 persons should be prohibited.”
In acknowledging that the measures would involve sacrifices, the newspaper said that this was necessary if Guyana was to survive the pandemic, given its poor health system.
The response to that call was predictable. Some businesses voluntarily closed, but the numbers were never sufficient to impact on local spread. It was only after the total number of confirmed cases almost tripled to 23, and the total number of deaths doubled to four, that the government did what it should have done one week earlier – order a lockdown.
The President ordered entertainment spots to be closed from 6pm to 6 am each day. The order was made on Thursday. Yet on Friday when the expanded restrictions were made, another media house discovered that some bars were being opened and frequented by persons who were imbibing and having a good time. This is inexcusable.
The business community’s response, generally, has been opportunistic. While supporting the calls for social distancing, the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry called on the business community to establish measures for hand sanitizing, and for restaurants, bars and liquor stores to close at 7 p.m.
The majority of the members of the Chamber do not fit into this latter category, and in effect the Chamber was calling for a 7 pm closure, a time when most of the businesses of its members would have been closed anyway. This is the sort of self-interested positions which sections of the business community take, and which made it impossible for it to be relied upon to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
The government eventually did the right thing and imposed a partial lockdown. The measures announced still need some fine-tuning. It had to be pointed out, for example, that telecommunications and the media are essential services. Another important service which should be considered is remittances. The government may not have realized just how many persons actually rely on remittances for survival. It would be best if banks offer only automated services and if money transfer services are kept open for a few hours each day.
Some essential services are large employers, but not everyone needs to be on the job at the same time. Most of the employees can be “on call”. These are suggestions as to how to reduce the number of persons working at any one time.
Not all paddy farmers have reaped their paddy. These farmers will go bankrupt unless they are allow to reap, mill and replant. This should be allowed. There is no need to prevent persons from accessing their farmlands, because without this food will become short, and prices will increase beyond the reach of the poor.
Vendors have already become unconscionable in their mark-ups. Some of them are peddling their non-essential items, even though this is not permissible under the directive issued by the Minister of Public Health.
The partial lockdown will be painful. But the problem is more dangerous than the cure. Unless this virus is stopped and stopped quickly, a great many persons here are going to die. Among the high-risk groups are persons over 60 years. There should have been a prohibition on these persons leaving their homes.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper)
May 31, 2020By Sean Devers Thirty-four-year-old fast bowling all-rounder Guyanese Tremayne Dequette Smartt has played 57 ODIs and 58 T20 games for the West Indies Women’s Team but none since March 2018 when...
May 31, 2020
May 31, 2020
May 31, 2020
May 30, 2020
May 30, 2020
Editor’s Note, If your sent letter was not published and you felt its contents were valid and devoid of libel or personal attacks, please contact us by phone or email.
Feel free to send us your comments and/or criticisms.
Contact: 624-6456; 225-8452; 225-8458; 225-8463; 225-8465; 225-8473 or 225-8491.
Or by Email: [email protected] / [email protected]