Kaieteur News – Two more persons died yesterday from the coronavirus. This brings the total number of deaths to 203.
As of yesterday, there were eight persons in the COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Based on the death rate of severe cases, it is likely that two more of these persons are going to die this week. This will mean more grief and suffering.
And still the government operates as if the situation is under control. It is not. Since January, there has been a massive spike in cases. Since the start of the year, there have been almost 2,500 cases, an average of almost 20 cases per day, among the highest average number of cases in any period.
Guyana was doing well going into the Christmas holidays, when a vaccine became available internationally. But the Christmas and New Year holidays saw a sudden spike, no doubt caused by irresponsible behaviour and poor enforcement.
But Christmas and New Year celebrations cannot alone account for the sustained increase in new cases. It could well be that we have new variants. The last sample sent to CARPHA – the Caribbean reference laboratory, was much too small and perhaps some of the most recent cases should be referred back to that institution to determine whether Guyana has acquired the highly contagious Brazilian, United Kingdom or South African variant. If we have, the death rate is going to skyrocket.
Guyana’s per capita death rate is extremely high. In comparison to other countries in the Region, our per capita death rate is even higher than Venezuela. It is higher that St. Lucia, Antigua, Montserrat, Jamaica, Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Haiti and Grenada. Guyana is not doing well at all in reducing deaths and perhaps there needs to be international assistance to offer advice on treatment.
The Ministry of Health has been reluctant to provide much information, apart from the age and Region of residence of those who have died. As such, not much inferences or conclusions can be drawn about these deaths. In fact, the Ministry of Health is yet to publish any analysis of the COVID-related deaths, which can help the public, and the Ministry itself, gain a better understanding of these deaths.
The Ministry does not even have the decency to advise the public of the total cases per Region. This either has to be calculated from the daily reports or citizens have to wait. The Citizen’s Initiative provides far more information than the Ministry of Health, and ironically their data, is from the Ministry of Health.
The Ministry of Health provides no regional breakdown of new cases or active cases. It hardly ever provides information as to specific villages or communities, which are affected. And of course, for reasons of privacy and confidentiality, there is no mention of the identities of those who have died.
The Ministry of Health is not going to become more transparent. It has treated the public with utter contempt by the withholding of critical data and by its failure to publish any detailed analysis of the local outbreak of the virus. The public does not know the respective number of deaths by age range. They do not know exactly how many of those who died had underlying conditions.
But more importantly, there is little information about the possible ways in which the infected contracted the virus. A number of elderly persons have died and it is speculated that younger infected persons may have contracted the virus and taken it home.
Schools are likely to be reopened just after Easter and if this is done without most of the high-risk population being inoculated, Guyana could be in for a real disaster because once the virus gets into the school system, it will spread like a wind-assisted wildfire.
The government, however, is not going to change its ways. It is not going to become more transparent. That promise has already been thrown through the window. It is now left for the people to assist each other in overcoming this pandemic.
More than 200 persons have died thus far. And very few of their families have come forward to talk about their experience. Perhaps they feel stigmatized. But they owe it to the memory of their loved ones to try to educate the public about their loved ones’ experience and how they contracted the virus, so that people can get a better idea of the forms of local community spread and if younger people are taking the virus home and infecting the elderly.
Of the more than 8,000 persons who have been infected over the past year, only a handful of persons have come forward to share their experience. If this changes and more people speak out – especially about those who have died – Guyanese may begin to take the pandemic more seriously.
The people owe it to one another to come forward and share their stories. By sharing your story, you can help stop rather than share the virus.
(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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