The government must cease playing games with the people. The government must stop making excuses and find the solutions to the more than two-fold increases in coronavirus deaths over the past six weeks.
Yesterday, an additional 44 cases were added. These cases originated in the country’s two most populous regions. Region Three and Region Four with four and 40 cases respectively. None of the other regions recorded any cases; perhaps no tests were done in these regions.
Since the new government took office, far more information is being provided on the coronavirus dashboard. There is now a regional breakdown of cases. But the more information the government gives, the more it also withholds.
It makes very little sense telling us about the number of cases in each region without telling us about the number of new cases per Region. Fortunately, a social media site named Guyana Coronavirus Awareness calculates the number of new cases per each Region. Yesterday, the only new cases recorded were in two regions but that, as explained, could be because it was only in these regions in which tests took place yesterday.
A more important statistics, however, is the number of active cases per region. As of yesterday, the total number of active cases nationally stood at 1,099. If a regional breakdown of these active cases was provided, it would allow for a better regional response. But the main reason why the government may be opposed to a regional breakdown of active cases is because of what it will reveal about Region Four which is believed now to have almost 800 of the almost 1100 active cases or more than seven out of every 10 cases. There is now cause for a lockdown of Region Four or at least the reimposition of previous social restrictions.
Another important statistics is the positivity rate which can be calculated from the daily data provided. Yesterday, the positivity rate was 40.5 percent while the overall positivity rate is 20.5 percent. Ideally, the country should be aiming at a positivity rate of five percent.
Of further interest yesterday was the fact that there were only 116 cases. Imagine what the total number of positive cases may have been like if more than 300 tests were conducted.
The issue of testing has not yet been resolved. We are still being told about a 48 hours waiting period for results. The country should be aiming for 1,000 tests per day with same day results. Unless, there is mass testing, there will be no decline in the infection and death rate.
Within six weeks, the total number of deaths have increased from 21 to 70. While there have been more testing, and more testing usually leads to more cases, it should not necessarily lead to such a massive increase in the death rate. This signals that something is radically wrong and it is this issue which the government must address.
The Minister of Health is quoted in one section of the media as saying that the spike in local cases reflects global trends. The reason for the global rise in cases, including in the United States and now in Europe, is the reopening of the economy. The rise in cases in Guyana did not begin after the 2nd August. It began just before that date when the then government began the six-phase reopening of the economy.
Towards the end of July, there was a precipitous increase in cases. In the last week of July alone, there was an almost 20 percent increase in positive cases, which considering the low number of cases, (413) and low testing, was a signal that the reopening of the economy was leading to a spike in cases.
That spike continued over the following six weeks. But what is not explainable by global trends is the increase in local deaths. Globally, there has not been that level of increased deaths as is happening in Guyana in so short a period.
It may be a case of treatment. The Ministry of Health, weeks ago received 29 ventilators. Yet, we are not sure how many and since when any of these ventilators were dispatched to the Barima-Waini area which has had 22 of the total of 70 deaths.
We are told also that the anti-viral drug, remdesivir, which has been shown internationally to reduce the time for recovery, is being used locally. But what about the other cheaper drugs such as dexamethasone and hydrocortisone which have also been granted emergency use authorization for severe cases in some countries. Are these being used? And what about the pioneering use of plasma from recovered patients which had such a favourable outcome in a small sample of local cases. Has this been abandoned? There have been no public appeals for persons who recovered from the virus to donate their plasma to help severely-affected patients.
The government is making the same excuses which the previous government made. It is saying that the people have to take greater precautions. That is like telling people during a crime wave that they have a responsibility to keep their doors closed.
Sure, people have to keep their doors closed. But government also has to enforce the laws. When it comes to the coronavirus, this is not happening. Not even the regulations governing the wearing of masks in public is being enforced.
The virus is widespread in Region Four. The government needs to undertake mass testing in this Region and to enforce social restrictions so as to reduce the incidence of infections and deaths. But it is reluctant to do so because the business community will cry foul and it is the business class which controls the government.
(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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