By Dr. Zulfikar Bux
Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine
Over the past few weeks, we have seen a surge in COVID-19 infections in Guyana. We have one of the highest death rates in the Caribbean and there is worry that a stronger, mutated strain has reached our shores. During the initial outbreak when persons were more fearful and took more precautions, we managed to slow the spread to the point where we got ahead of it. Unfortunately, many became irresponsible and flouted preventative measures causing the virus to surge and get ahead of us. Today, I will shed some light on how we ended up where we are and remind you of the necessary steps that are needed for us to get ahead before it’s too late.
You cannot overcome the problem if you do not acknowledge it.
There are too many myths being spread by non-experts about COVID-19. The biggest one is the virus is not real and it’s a political gimmick. While our political situation has hampered our response to this pandemic, this virus is not a gimmick and we need to wake up to its reality. Patients cannot fake such an illness and medical findings cannot lie to us. I have seen my share of patients with this infection and some have presentations that I have never seen before in my practice. The faster we stop acting stupidly and accept the facts, the sooner we will be able to take actions to collectively mitigate the spread of this virus.
Our Political situation is a morbid distraction.
I cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the fact that during the entire period of the pandemic in Guyana, we have been waiting on the results of an election. During pandemics, focused leadership is paramount to ensuring the population has a clear direction to maneuver the many challenges that arises. Unfortunately, the focus has been more on elections rather than the pandemic. Countries that have been successful against the pandemic have leaders that were precise, efficient and responsible with their actions and a population that was focused and adherent to appropriate guidelines. Unfortunately, our leadership and population have not been as effective in the response to this pandemic. The faster we get our act together and overcome our unnecessary political impasse, the sooner we should be able to mount a more responsible response to this worsening pandemic.
Is wearing a mask to help save lives such a big thing to ask?
While the mask campaign had its initial success and helped to curb the spread of the virus, persons became complacent and we are now at a point where the number of persons not wearing masks far outnumbers those wearing masks. I am honestly getting tired of reminding persons daily to wear their masks. We are in the most devastating period of our lifetime and all that it takes for us to survive this onslaught is for us to all wear a mask. Yet, we cannot get such a simple act correct after months of advocating and providing the evidence for mask use. Have we become so selfish and negligent that doing such a small act to save lives is beyond us? Please, let us get our act together before this virus separates us from our loved ones; wearing a mask may be your best gift to your loved ones and all of humanity.
The next couple of weeks are critical.
The surge in cases these past few weeks can only mean one thing; this virus will get out of control within the next couple of weeks if we do not get strict with preventative actions. If it gets out of control, do not think that the medical system in Guyana will be able to cope. Our system was never designed for such an occurrence. Many lives will be lost to the disease and many more will be lost due to the inability to access medical care in an overwhelmed system. To compound this, more health workers may become infected leaving the country with less medical personnel to take care of an overwhelming load of new patients. But, we can avoid all of this by making the much needed changes from today. Let us all dig deep and take the steps to prevent this virus from spreading. Let us stay home, social distance, wear a mask and practice proper hygiene.
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