One of the most infuriating things to view each day is the Daily COVID-19 Bulletin. Despite there being appeals for more information to be provided so as to win the public confidence, the bulletins have remained the same.
No data is provided daily about the origins of the cases. While it is understood that the government may be circumspect in providing the names and addresses of the newly infected, the least that can be done is to provide, daily, the new and active cases per region and sub-region.
This is not being done. Yet the Ministry officials continue to lecture the public about taking greater precautions and the need for greater personal responsibility. But they have failed to condemn the gross mismanagement of the pandemic by the government and the need to bring an end to the circus over the elections results so that funds can be released and international support sought to bring the local epidemic under control.
Guyana has regressed rather than progressed in addressing the epidemic. Instead of the country fully opening up after weeks of ineffective social distancing, the recent rise in cases points to a possible reintroduction of some of the very regulations, which should have been lifted by now.
In two months – and ironically in the heart of the social restrictions – the total number of cases have tripled. In one month, the number of active cases has moved from just over 50 to more than 150. In just two weeks, the total number of deaths has increased by more than 50%.
Guyana has the second highest number of cases in the English-speaking Caribbean. Jamaica has more than twice the number of cases in Guyana. However, Guyana has a far higher per capita infection rate than Jamaica. This is not attributable to Guyana’s testing rate because Jamaica has a higher testing rate – 9,607 per every one million persons as compared to a mere 3,330 per every million persons.
Despite the higher number of cases, 759, Jamaica has recorded only 10 deaths. Guyana has recorded 17 from 300 cases.
Guyana, therefore, is the undisputed epicenter of the Coronavirus in the English-speaking Caribbean. This is attributable to the poor implementation and poor planning for the coronavirus epidemic.
The proven way to suppress this spread of the virus is through lockdowns. China has shown the effectiveness of this strategy. But Guyana failed to implement either a strict lockdown or to implement properly the response measures.
The government a few weeks ago spoke about a six-phase reopening. The people have long stopped listening to the government. They have been away from work for far too long. Non-essential businesses have been opening even though this is not permitted by the government regulations.
The city has been back to almost normal for weeks now. People are going about their business oblivious to the government’s regulations. They have no choice.
People are suffering. Most of them have not been working for months. They are struggling to make ends meet and they have to put food on the table. It took months for government relief vouchers to be distributed. When the distribution began, the vouchers ranged from $2,000 to $30,000.
What sort of relief is $2,000? It is believed that it is costing the government more to pay the salaries of the COVID-19 Secretariat than the value of the recent vouchers distributed.
In the meantime, while the government is fiddling, the infection rate is getting worse. The virus has now penetrated the gold mining and Indigenous areas. Some people are wearing their masks as a fashion statement, rather than for safety. Others are improperly wearing their masks below their nose and others are having it hanging from their chins.
Political assemblies are taking place daily; the situation is not going to improve. Protests are super-spreaders and one should always anticipate a spike in cases after protests.
People are not practising social distancing – not at work, not at school, not in the markets, not in the store and not in the streets. A most disturbing scene was relayed on social media recently. It showed APNU+AFC protestors outside of State House on the afternoon of the decision of the Caribbean Court of Justice. One of the protestors took a baby with her. Now this is the height of irresponsibility. But you cannot blame the public alone.
It is ridiculous to make voluntary, the compliance with social restrictions. Restrictions have to be rigidly enforced as they were in China, the Cayman Islands and New Zealand. But it is obvious that because government was not in a position to offer relief to those affected by the restrictions, they did not impose strict enforcement.
As a result of government’s incompetence, the country is in a worse state today than in April. The country is heading into a perfect storm, and while this is happening, no one is manning the ship’s wheel.
(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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