Yesterday’s COVID-19 dashboard was not interesting, not by what is revealed but by what was hidden. Of the total of 247 tests which were reported on, there were zero positive cases in Region Four.
This statistics does not confirm to the pattern of cases over the past few weeks. It could very well mean that none of those 247 tests was related to Region Four. In fact, six of the 10 Regions did not report any increases in cases yesterday. The only regions in which there were increases were Regions One, Two, Five and Eight, with the latter having eight positive cases, the most for yesterday.
We can therefore look forward to a massive spike in reported cases in Region Four tomorrow. Hopefully, tomorrow’s dashboard would include more of the results of the tests done in that region.
There is clearly a need for more information to be provided. First, the public would feel more assured if instead of the total cases, they could be provided with the total active cases as per region as well.
The government is attempting to shift the narrative from the total confirmed cases towards looking at the total recovered cases. It is arguing that the recovery rate is high. That makes no sense at all. There is a standard formula for recoveries, one which has been downgraded by the World Health Organization. Once you are tested and you have no symptoms for 13 days after testing positive, you are considered recovered. Also, seven days after infection, it is being said that persons can no longer transmit the virus, so it could well be that this will help reduce the number of persons in isolation.
The former Minister of Health, under the APNU+AFC regime, is reported to have indicated her disagreement with home isolation. However, it is impossible for the government to impose institutional isolation to all cases. This could have happened because when there was low testing, there were only a maximum, at one stage, of 50-60 persons in institutional isolation which was then mandatory. But when you are dealing with 1,000 plus cases, it is impossible and makes no sense either to institutionalize everyone. Almost all the countries in which there are large outbreaks of the coronavirus have home isolation.
The government’s argument of increase recovery rate needs to factor in deaths. When someone dies, it means they have not recovered and if one examines deaths as per cases, it is evident that Guyana is in a serious crisis.
Like Guyana, Jamaica is experiencing a massive spike in cases. It has so far registered 6,170 cases, twice as high as the number of cases in Guyana. Yesterday, it recorded more than 150 new cases. But it only has 93 deaths, while Guyana is nearing 80 deaths with less than 3,000 cases.
Suriname has 4,883 cases with 102 deaths which when we calculate the deaths per cases, it is still lower than Guyana’s. Trinidad has 4,386 cases, which is almost double what Guyana has but it has six less deaths. So while we can argue that all of these Caribbean countries are experiencing a massive spike in cases and deaths, Guyana’s death rate is higher.
The government has boxed itself into a position where it is now most unlikely it will shut the economy down. Notwithstanding, it has to do something about the number of cases in Region Four and it has to do something for the vulnerable in all Regions.
The government should meet the private sector and come up with a plan. The private sector has an interest in this matter. If persons test positive in their companies, it will hurt the company more than it stands to gain by keeping business open.
A plan is needed for Region Four and that plan must try to look once again at ways of reducing deaths, undertaking mass testing and putting in place social restrictions to reduce the number of persons who congregate or work at one place at the same time.
You cannot test your way out this pandemic. There is only one proven way to stop this virus and that is through social restrictions.
Guyana cannot afford to pay the sort of price, which cities such as New York paid to bring the pandemic under control. But it does appear as if no one has pointed that out, as yet, to the government.
A vaccine is not likely to be available in Guyana until next March. Until then, people should say their prayers and hope for the best.
(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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