With the establishment of the Regional Democratic Councils (RDCs) in nine of the country’s 10 administrative regions, the efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19 infections and deaths can now be decentralized. If this is done, it should help to slow, somewhat, the transmission of the disease.
The numbers in Guyana continue to climb. As predicted, there was a surge in cases in Region Four. That Region accounted for two-thirds of the 59 cases which were reported yesterday.
Again, it has to be belaboured that the breakdown of active cases per Region is still not being provided. Nor, unlike the situation in South Korea, which has had great success in stemming the spread of the disease, there is no precise identification of the areas from which the new cases emanated.
The COVID-19 dashboard is not very helpful at all. It never was.
That was not the only bleak news yesterday. The global situation is not promising. It is not likely now that a vaccination will be available outside of Russia or China before November. And when it comes to the rollout for countries such as Guyana, we are not likely to be in line until the end of March next year, at the earliest.
Globally, the total number of deaths passed the one million mark. It was a sad milestone for the world. The virus has become a millstone around the necks of the world.
And yet, this virus can be stopped. China has shown what needs to be done. But the rest of the world is more interested in keeping the economy going and therefore the spread of the virus continued unabated even though there is evidence that the more the economy reopens, the higher the number of infections and deaths.
Once the situation passes a certain threshold, it is almost impossible to reverse the exponential spread. It is important to avoid that danger-point by taking action early. In 2005. Guyana was only a few days late during the Great Flood. More than 40 persons succumbed to leptospirosis.
The number of COVID-19 deaths is now close to double that number. And there are still almost 1,200 active cases recorded. Perhaps there are hundreds more asymptomatic persons in the community unknowingly spreading the disease. And so the situation will get far worse before it gets better.
The establishment of the RDCs, however, offers a glimmer – just a glimmer, nothing more than that – of hope. The priority of the RDCs should be to secure the funding that is available, both from government and from private citizens to lower the respective rates of infections and deaths.
The RDCs should on a daily basis publish their own data giving the total number of active cases in their Regions and the respective areas where there are cases and additional new cases are located. Unless the public has more specific information as to where COVID-19 cases are located, they will not be able to do as much as they ought to stem this pandemic.
The second thing that the Regions should do is to have a mass campaign ensuring that within their Regions everyone wears a mask. The Regions now need to assume this responsibility. Central government has failed abysmally to do this. Schoolchildren should be encouraged to be involved by running a social media campaign encouraging people to mask up in the Regions and exposing those who are not. It is time for those who are breaching the COVID-19 regulations to be publicly identified so that they can correct their ways.
The third initiative which the RDCs should undertake are Region-wide campaigns to ensure that certain places, particularly bars and restaurants and other haunts where people congregated, are complying with the regulations. The Regions should establish teams in each village or neighbourhood and they should work along with the police in these areas to arrest and charge persons and businesses flouting the regulations. There has to be a regional effort for there to be a success.
The fourth initiative which should be launched is that the respective health authorities should now be directly involved in establishing Intensive Care Units (ICU) and Isolation and institutional quarantine units in their areas to help with patient care and insulating residents from ill persons.
The fifth initiative which is recommended be undertaken by the Regions is contact tracing. The Regions with the greatest challenges, in this regard, will be Region One, Region Three and Region Four. The number of active cases in the other Regions are manageable.
The sixth initiative should be to establish testing centers across each Region so that persons can be tested. The Region, however, would have to coordinate this with the National Reference Laboratory since it makes no sense engaging in mass testing when there is not the capability to process more than 300 test results per day.
The Regions should begin to ready themselves to make a difference. Citizens and businesses should support them because they represent the final hope for the country after the grand failure of the central government to enforce its own regulations over the past six months.
(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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