Businesses of Region Nine are calling on the authorities to continue the closure of the Brazil border for another three months, to help reduce the risk of spreading the novel Coronavirus disease, COVID-19.
The border, almost 1,000 miles of it, was closed along with the others in March as the world watched helplessly as the disease devastated Italy and Europe.
However, Region Nine recently recorded its first case with more than 30 persons now ordered to be on home isolation.
Region Nine chairman, Bryan Allicock, recently told Kaieteur Radio that it is a major challenge to man the border with persons equipped with satellite phones and other technology to evade police and border guards.
While the official crossing is at Takutu, via the bridge linking Guyana and Brazil, there are several other points with the shallow waters that have allowed persons to cross easily, without being on the radar.
Yesterday, the Rupununi Chamber of Commerce and Industry made it clear that something has to be done.
“Two months ago, the Guyana Brazil international border at the Takutu River Bridge was officially closed. The reason was to prevent the spread of the deadly disease, Coronavirus, mainly to the State of Roraima and Region Nine or the Rupununi Region as we know it,” a statement said.
Since then, only priority goods are allowed to enter Guyana on Thursdays, after a process of sanitisation, conducted by the Ministry of Public Health and the Guyana Livestock Development Authority.
According to the business body, so far, it seems that the decision to close the border is justified and has helped in a significant way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 into Lethem and the wider Rupununi Region.
It was pointed out that Brazil has a high infection rate on the global scale and in the State of Roraima the infection rate is increasing by almost 100 persons every day.
“On any normal day, hundreds of Brazilians from the Northern States of Brazil would visit Lethem to shop various merchandise and return to Brazil. These persons would not normally be required to undergo any major checks upon entering the Port Complex at Lethem and most times a visual check is conducted by Guyanese authorities of the persons entering and leaving.”
The chamber pointed out that a number of these persons come from Manaus, which is almost 1000km away from Lethem.
“Manaus presently has over 29,000 persons infected and Boa Vista almost 2,500. Presently hospitals in both cities are overwhelmed with patients. The recovery rate is slow and the death rate continues to climb.”
The chamber noted that gold prices are at an all-time high, and over many years, thousands of Brazilians have travelled to and from Georgetown and local interior locations to work in the mining industry.
“Certainly, the high price for gold would again encourage them to travel and pose a big risk of bringing the deadly Coronavirus with them.”
The body pointed out that presently, Guyana does not have the capacity to handle any drastic increase of the infection of the population.
“The number of positive COVID-19 cases has been slowly climbing and in order to ensure that this does not get out of control, we need to ensure the Guyana Brazil border remains closed to people traffic until the situation in Brazil is under control.”
The Rupununi Chamber of Commerce and Industry said it is calling on the National COVID-19 Task Force to ensure that the Guyana Brazil border remains closed at least for the next three months or until such time as it is safe to reopen to regular traffic.
Village leaders of the Rupununi have been complaining too that miners and even Brazilians have been forcing their way through checkpoints.
There has been growing concerns over the situation in Brazil. The country has recorded 23,000 deaths with almost 400,000 cases.
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