Kaieteur News- Yesterday, the country recorded a staggering 60 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases, continuing the trend which began since the start of the New Year. The pandemic is now a runaway train.
The PPP/C does not know what next to do. It has always been short of ideas but nothing highlights its intellectual bareness than its failure to come to ensure stricter enforcement.
The President speaks glowingly about the soft approach to enforcement, given the impracticality of arresting persons and having to detain them. Once again, like his Minister of Health and his Prime Minister, he repeats the call for greater responsibility from citizens. This is like saying that instead of the police taking stern action to fight crime, people should be more careful inside and outside the home.
The soft approach is not working. Violations of social restrictions are now widespread. Hundreds of persons are congregating at wake-houses and funeral homes to pay their final respect to the dead. The seawall is jam-packed on Sunday. A popular hotel always seems to have a large number of vehicles parked outside its premises. But we are told that social distancing is being practiced inside.
The police are supposed to be doing a good job at soft enforcement, according to the President. But about 800 meters away from a Police Station there is a bar which is open to patrons.
People are having a jolly goodtime. Birthday parties and weddings are being hosted without restraints. Some people are walking the streets without face masks. Some businesses are admitting customers without face masks.
If social distancing is not being practiced, what is to be done? Is the government simply to turn a blind eye to the violations of its own regulations?
The government has run out of options. It is now counting on a vaccine to help stem the infection rate. But if the numbers continue with their steep trajectory, 24,000 vaccines are not going to have any impact. There has to be a simultaneous plan to stem infections as well as to inoculate the population.
The first instalment of 3,400 vaccines under the COVAX initiative is said to be due in February. That may be too optimistic given the shortages which are plaguing the worldwide vaccination campaign.
China is also said to be donating 20,000 vaccines. That is 20,000 too few. The high-risk age group in Guyana starts from age 55, not 65, and there would be a need for some 40,000 vaccines to cover the 55 plus age range.
China has so far produced two vaccines. One of them is produced by SINOPHARM, a state-owned company; and the other by SINOVAC a private firm. None of these two vaccines have been cleared as yet by the World Health Organization (WHO). A decision from the WHO is not expected before March but some other countries have already started to use the vaccines.
Neither the President nor his Minister of Health has said which one of the vaccines Guyana will receive. It is important that any vaccine being given to the elderly – the most high-risk group – should not have an efficacy rate of less than 75 percent.
There has been controversy over the efficacy rate of the vaccine produced by SINOVAC. China should be asked to only donate the SINOPHARM vaccine. It will cost the Chinese nothing to add an additional 20,000 so as to ensure enough quantities to inoculate the 55+ age group.
The government plans to have 35 teams involved. That is too inadequate a number considering the size and complexity of Guyana’s territory. Thirty-five teams, that is perhaps what is needed in Region Four alone. Not for the entire country!
Also, it means that each team will have to inoculate 200 persons per day. At an average of one person every five minutes – there will be the need for pre-registration, appointments and paperwork – it would mean that in an eight-hour shift, one station can only do around 100 vaccinations per day. So it will require at least two stations per every team to ensure the target is reached.
In the meantime, all Guyanese should get down on their knees and pray that this newest wave of infection subsides as quickly as it emerged. Because the government has ran out of ideas on what to do and is hoping on the vaccines to do the trick.
(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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