There is a trend in the reporting of the COVID-19 statistics. This is illustrated by what happened on Saturday.
The COVID-19 dashboard reported a mere 16 new cases on Saturday. Most persons would have breathed a sigh of relief upon reading this.
They would, no doubt, have been hoping that this decline in reported cases over the previous day signalled a slowdown in the spread of the virus.
A few hours later, the dreaded news came. Two more deaths. Yesterday morning, more dreaded news: two more deaths.
Yesterday, the numbers surged again. There were 47 new cases. Forty one of these was in Region Four and six in Region Six.
Region Six is now about to explode. And the authorities have no plans to check this imminent explosion in cases.
The most frightening aspect, however, is the deaths which are taking place. Within a space of 24 hours, four persons died. The two who died yesterday were not elderly persons. They were both women, one aged 45 and other aged 55.
Why did these women have to die? How does one excuse the inaction of the government in imposing tighter social restrictions – the only measures which have been proven to help reduce total cases and deaths?
The reopening of the economy has led to an increase in cases and deaths. The reopening began even before the previous administration declared its six-phase reopening plan.
People had been home for too long; businesses were closed for too extended a period and were in financial distress; workers were finding it hard to put food on the table.
Things were at a breaking-point and thus people decided that they had to reopen and return to work, regardless of the regulations which had been put in place by the previous government. By the end of June, people had begun to ignore the regulations.
Regent Street in Georgetown was as busy as on Christmas Eve.
The numbers do not lie. The spike in cases began around June 21st when there were only 184 cases. By the end of July, the number of cases had more than doubled. Since then it has taken off. By the end of this month, the total number of cases would have been seven times what it was at the end of July and the number of deaths would have doubled twice in two months.
The Ministry of Health does not have the skills which are needed to design a response to this pandemic.
The Ministry says that it is undertaking contact-tracing.
The Ministry of Health should not expect the public to believe that it has the capability to undertake contact tracing for more than 1,100 active cases, the majority of which are in Region Four. It may be able to do so in the other regions, including Region Six which is now set to become a COVID-19 hotspot.
When the number of active cases is small, as in most Regions, it is easy to undertake contact tracing if there are sufficient staff and resources to do so.
But for Region Four, contact tracing is going to be a problem, once the number of active cases is as high as they are at present.
South Korea has done an amazing job at controlling its outbreak.
That country is transparent in its reporting. It does not provide the names of the infected or dead but provide enough information as to the area from where these persons originate so that people living in that area can take precautions.
South Korea’s contact tracing is among the best in the world and this has allowed it to keep its numbers low.
This same approach is needed in Guyana. To simply state that Region Four had 41 new cases, without saying where in the Region each of the cases emanated, is not going to help the public. If people know that there are cases in their areas, they are going to be more careful.
Right now there are two sets of responses to the pandemic.
Some people are scared. But they feel that there is nothing they can do. They feel that the government is not protecting them and therefore they have given in to fatalism.
They are prepared to accept whatever fate has in store for them. If they die, they die. If they live, they live.
The second set of reactions is distrust.
There are large numbers of persons who believe that the government is lying to them. Some people believe that deaths attributable to other cases are being blamed on COVID-19.
The consequence of these two reactions is that too many people do not care. They are simply walking around freely unbothered by the virus and without any masks.
Some foolish ones are even peddling the line that there is no COVID-19 in Guyana.
God help Guyana! If the virus does not get us, ignorance will!
(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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