Aug 03, 2020 News
With Brazil currently among the list of countries recording the highest COVID-19 cases, the South Rupununi District Council (SRDC) is worried that the illegal cross border activities at the Guyana-Brazil boundary are putting Wapichan communities at risk. Additionally, the council believes that the influx of trespassers stems from the lackadaisical attitude of the relevant authorities.
This newspaper had previously highlighted that South Rupununi currently houses several Wapichan communities, where the majority of the inhabitants do not speak English. Project Coordinator attached to the SRDC, Kid James, stated that the language barrier and the influx of illegal crossers are contributing to these communities being at great risk and is pressing for more action.
James stated that since the inhabitants’ indigenous language is not English, they cannot understand the COVID-19 guidelines that are being published. Additionally, he lamented that if there is no comprehension then they cannot avoid potentially infected migrants who have now taken up residence in their communities.
James further stated that the council has been pleading with the government for months to enforce stricter border control and to dispatch more personnel. In spite of those calls, no action has been taken.
The SDRC previously stated that they had blocked several illegal crossings along the border and have been doing their utmost to monitor border crossings. The council noted however that assistance from the regional authority is vital in tackling the issue.
The council believes that there is a lone effort being made to tackle the on-going pandemic and ensure the safety of the Wapichan people. This council members posited, is unacceptable. While the SRDC has begun implementing measures to boost communication about COVID-19 within Wapichan communities, James highlighted that there is still a long way to go. With the Wapichan communities being in grave danger and dire need of help, the SRDC thinks that the authorities are making controlling the virus harder.
On Thursday, July 23, the council had condemned the Regional Health Officer (REO) of Region Nine for misinforming the media about COVID-19 related incidents and making threats against the region’s Toshaos.
According to the SRDC, REO Carl Parker had misinformed a media entity about a COVID-19 patient escaping health officials as he was being put into institutional quarantine. The council stated that unnecessary panic was caused among villagers after reports that an illegal migrant traveling through villages in Rupununi had tested positive for the virus. Parker then made allegations that Toshao’s were hiding villagers who illegally crossed into Guyana and recommended that they are charged for such actions. Toshaos were also told that if there is a rise in the number of cases in their villages, the regional authorities will ease in assisting these communities.
The council said it would like to see the regional authority ramping up security at the Guyana-Brazil border along with proper communication between the Regional authorities and the Wapichan people on how to safeguard themselves against the virus and illegal villagers.
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