Kaieteur News – In less than six weeks, the number of active COVID-19 coronavirus cases has increased five times. It has moved from just over 702 on the 2nd August to more than 3,600 as at yesterday.
In any country, epidemiologists would have pressed the red alert button. But in Guyana, our officials do not seem to believe that drastic action is needed.
It appears that the geniuses in our Ministry of Health are counting on vaccination. But vaccination has been taking place for months now and the situation has not gotten any better; in fact September 2021 has become the deadliest and most infectious month since the pandemic began.
This is not to say that vaccination has not been working. The body bags would have been piling up on the streets had it not been for the vaccines. Vaccination has been proven to work and is working in Guyana but no one should expect it to be perfect. Vaccination rates however, remain much too low and the extended wait for the Sputnik second doses is exposing the partially vaccinated to the risk of infection since a person only develops full immunity a few weeks after receiving the second dose.
Vaccination therefore cannot be the only approach to ending the pandemic locally. The present spike would suggest that the highly contagious Delta variant is spreading rapidly across the country. And the more persons it infects, the more deaths will occur because the number of fully vaccinated and even partially vaccinated persons is still too low.
The government therefore has to move away from this one-track approach. It should begin to do a number of things if it hopes to stop Guyana from becoming like India was a few months ago.
When infections and deaths began to increase in India, the government there was forced to take action to lockdown large parts of the country and to restrict social contact. A great many lives were lost but the situation in India improved, not because of vaccinations but because of the measures adopted such as lockdowns. But now that India is relaxing some of its restrictions, the numbers have begun to increase again.
Had India not tightened up when it did, its death toll – already the third highest in the world behind the United States and Brazil – would have been far higher. Most predictions were that India would have seen close to a million deaths but this did not happen because of the lockdowns earlier this year.
China has proven the benefits of a lockdown. And under the APNU+AF deaths were kept low because of the closure of non-essential businesses for months and because of the curfew which was imposed.
The fact of the matter is that lockdowns lead to great suffering particularly for the poor. But a total lockdown is not necessary in Guyana. A multi-prong approach should be taken.
First, there should be a special campaign to ensure that those persons above the age of 55 are vaccinated. This will allow for protection of the most vulnerable and reduce deaths even if infections rise.
Second, an extended curfew should be introduced. The original 6am to 6pm curfew should be reintroduced since the country is now in a semi health emergency.
Third, non-essential businesses and government Ministries, except for essential services, should be asked to work four days per week. In this way a balance can be struck between reducing social contacts and keeping the economy going.
The majority of those who are dying should not be dying. They are dying because they got infected and the majority of them are not vaccinated. But do not blame all of them for not being fully vaccinated – there is a shortage worldwide of Sputnik V second doses and this has to do with the long time it takes to produce the inputs to make the vaccines – estimated at four times longer than what it takes for the first dose.
So if because of the problems with vaccines and vaccine hesitancy people are not yet fully vaccinated, other measures have to be put in place. And given the spiralling numbers as present, which appear to be getting worse, it is time to introduce other measures including those mentioned above.
There is still time to save Christmas this year. If tighter regulations can be imposed in Regions Three and Four, and if the vaccination rate can be upped, the country may be able to reopen more fully for December. But unless there are major restrictions imposed for October and November, there will no Christmas parties allowed this year.
(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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