On Saturday, Guyanese breathed a sigh of relief when only four positive coronavirus cases were recorded. Yesterday, their relief turned to despair when it was announced that there were 50 additional positive cases and three more deaths, including that of someone who cannot be considered elderly.
In one of his earlier interviews, President Irfaan Ali had questioned the testing policy of the previous administrations, pointing to the high positive cases one day and the next day low cases. His inference was that this reflected a problem with testing.
It is now established that the former administration has left this country in a COVID-19 quagmire. The low rate of testing under the previous government has resulted in the virus percolating in society.
Just before the former administration demitted office, the numbers had begun to rise, even with its low testing. Those numbers are now skyrocketing but so too are the rate of infections.
Yesterday was a prime example. Yesterday, there were 216 tests done of which there were 50 positive cases. This means that almost one in every five cases came back positive. But what was disturbing was that on Saturday out of the more than 150 tests done, there were only four positive cases. The very yo-yo effect which the President had bemoaned is now taking place.
The public is circumspect about these large variations. It is not helping the government’s case when it cannot explain them.
The PPP/C does not have a handle on the present situation. The death rate would have doubled in a mere month since the PPP/C came into office. This is a frightening statistic, especially considering that the number of active cases since then has also increased three-fold. The projection would seem to suggest that more persons are going to die, including very young persons. This is not good news.
The other strange development is that Guyana will be sending samples to the CARPHA – Caribbean Public Health Agency. It was said that the samples will be sent there to reduce the backlog of cases.
What about local laboratories? Why can the government not be paying them to undertake some of the tests, once quality standards are established? This would help reduce the backlog.
This flies in the face of what the President had promised. He had indicated that additional testing machines would have been in the country last week and that this would have reduced the testing times from nine hours to two.
We were supposed to be capable of doing 300 tests in one day and obtaining the results in the same day. This is not happening and therefore clarification is needed as to just why results are not being returned the same day. Some persons are waiting more than a week for their test results. This is totally unacceptable. This should not be allowed to happen.
It also needs to be explained why samples are being sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) to reduce the backlog? CARPHA should have ideally been used to validate a sample of the tests already done here. It is strange that we are doing less than 300 tests per day and yet there is still a backlog.
Backlogs in testing cannot be entertained. Persons have died and it was only after they died that it was confirmed that they had the virus. The danger of delays in results is that delayed treatment can be costly in human terms.
Given the large numbers of cases over the past three weeks, there needs to be some serious remodeling. Initially, it was projected that Guyana could have had as much as 1,200 cases. This would probably have resulted in about 60 deaths.
With the more than doubling of both deaths and positive cases over the past three weeks, it could mean that Guyana can end up with about 6,000 cases since a vaccine is not expected to be available until March next year. This would leave us with more than 300 deaths.
The government has a tough call to make since APNU+AFC left it with a calamiity. But sooner rather than later, it will have to make that call.
(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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