Kaieteur News – Danger is lurking around the corner. The spike in coronavirus cases since the start of this month indicates that more deaths are ahead… far more deaths.
Even with a vaccine due to arrive sometime later this year, the situation which faces Guyana is terrifying. Unless coronavirus infections are crushed within the next three months, the arrival of the vaccine will result in a mass rush.
The spike in cases in Moraikabai over the past week should not have occurred. Towards the end of last year, infections had increased in that community. Mass testing of everyone should have taken place, mindful of the experiences of other similar communities. Such testing would not have exhausted the testing kits of the Ministry of Health to have tested everyone in that community. It should do so now.
A crisis is brewing. And sadly, people are uninterested. Each death becomes another statistic. Care and concern about the dying has been thrown through the window. People – the government and civil society included – are indifferent to the unfolding human tragedy.
By the time the vaccine gets here, deaths would have reached 300. When this column first touted this number some persons rebuked it in the name of God. Now, we will be lucky if we can restrict COVID-19 deaths to 300 before the end of June.
We have not learnt anything from the experience of other countries. Sixteen thousand persons died on Wednesday around the world and on that single day more than 740,000, just about the entire population of Guyana, were infected.
The situation in the United States, the United Kingdom and in other parts of Europe is extremely grim. Lockdowns are in effect and still the next few weeks are expected to be the worst since the pandemic began.
More than half a million persons have died since the end of November 2020. By the time you would have read this, more than two million people would have died so far from the pandemic.
The winter has realized the world’s worst fears. Just as a vaccine has been developed, an additional 20 million people were infected in December alone. And for the first 13 days of this year, another 10 million have been infected.
What all of this says is that vaccines are going to be hard to come by for poor countries. The rich countries will buy up most of what is being produced because their infections are surging.
A major controversy is brewing over the efficacy of the Chinese-developed SINOVAC vaccine. Some countries have recorded high efficacy rates for this vaccine, but Brazil is claiming that the vaccine only has an efficacy of just over 50 percent. This is not going to make that vaccine one of the viable candidates for mass inoculations when two vaccines with far superior efficacy rates have been already authorized for use.
This is a major setback for developing countries since the SINOVAC vaccine was expected to add to the dwindling global stocks and allow for developing countries to access supplies.
At present, global production is not meeting the demand for the two main vaccines which have been authorized in the United States and the UK. And with mounting cases, the timelines for poor countries to receive their quotas are going to be pushed even further backwards.
Guyana is expected to receive vaccines under the COVAX initiative for about 20 percent of its population. However, it is estimated that in order for herd immunity to develop, Guyana would need to vaccinate at least 75 percent of its population. The number of vaccines to meet this target is not going to be available anytime soon, unless there is change in the efficacy rating of the SINOVAC vaccine.
Therefore, unless this pandemic is drastically slowed locally, Guyana is heading for a massive increase in deaths. This cannot be allowed to happen and therefore there has to be new approach, one which aims to crushing the rate of new infections, while the country awaits the vaccination.
By the time the vaccine gets here, Guyana should have put itself in a position to report no active cases. Unless this happens, Guyana is headed for a disaster worse than the Titanic and Jonestown put together.
The vaccines presently authorized will take too long to get here. And Guyana is likely to experience the same slothfulness and supply constraints that are being experienced in other countries. The United States should have already inoculated more than 40 million persons; they are now only around 10 million. And they have a population of 300 million.
The Minister of Health has to adopt an interim strategy aimed at curbing new infections in the shortest possible time. This may have to involve mass testing of entire communities, imposing stricter curfews and closing non-essential businesses.
Otherwise, when the vaccine does come, the number of cases will be such as to cause a human stampede. And this is not what anyone desires.
(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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