Kaieteur News – I have stopped commenting on the COVID-19 pandemic because I am convinced that only a tiny number of persons in Guyana are taking the local outbreak seriously. Had there been greater concern, Guyana would have been in a far stronger position, in combating the pandemic, than it is today.
In recent weeks, there has been a tremendous spike in cases in the Berbice area. And yesterday, the death was reported of a fully vaccinated man in his mid-50s. You can never tell whether persons are speaking the truth when they, or their relatives, tell the authorities about their vaccination status. Therefore, often, you have to accept when it is reported that someone who is fully vaccinated dies.
More Berbicians are going to die in the coming weeks because there has been a rapid increase in positive cases in that Region. In fact, Region Six is now closely following Region Four – the country’s largest Region – in terms of new infections. It is now surpassing Region Three in terms of daily new cases.
Berbice now has to be a Region of concern for the authorities. But the lack of detailed information means that the people of that Region may not be aware that they are now having their sharpest outbreak since the pandemic began.
By now, the pandemic should have ended around the world. But that did not happen because some countries coveted the early production of vaccines. Then vaccine hesitancy hit and the number of daily vaccinations has slowed appreciably.
By now, more than 80 percent of the population of the United States should have been vaccinated. However, the latest numbers suggest that only 70 percent of the US population has received at least one dose and a mere 60 percent are vaccinated fully. This is the vaccination status of the United States, three weeks shy of one year since vaccinations began.
The culprit has been vaccine hesitancy. From a high of four million doses per day in April, the US vaccination rate has shrunk to about 1.8 million per day at present. And not so long ago, it was under one million. It is only because of the booster shots and the vaccination of children, which has allowed the vaccination rate to surge.
In comparison, Guyana has not done too badly given the early difficulties in sourcing vaccines. Half of our population has received at least one dose and 34.1 percent are vaccinated fully. The government uses a different metric. According to official figures, 77 percent of the adult population has received at least one jab and 53 percent has received the second.
The experience of other countries has shown that things are not going to get better faster in Guyana when it comes to the vaccination rate, even with the requirements for proof of vaccination to access public places.
There are however, signs of hope. The number of active cases, the number of hospitalisation and the number of cases in the COVID-19 ICU have been declining rapidly. From a high of 4,000 active cases at the end of September 2021, the number of active cases has now fallen below 2,000 and the number of persons in the ICU has been halved in the corresponding period. This is a fantastic achievement, which should have signalled that the pandemic was on its way out in Guyana.
But Guyana cannot be that optimistic. Not with Christmas around the corner, the rise in COVID-19 cases in Europe and now in the United States, the continued relaxing of the social restrictions in Guyana and poor vaccination rates among young adults.
Christmas is around the corner…as literally is COVID-19 also. We know what happened last Christmas. New infections had declined by more than 25 percent in December. Deaths had also fallen by half to 13 deaths for the entire month. And so Guyanese dropped their guard and had their fun. But in the end, it was COVID-19 which was smiling because by February and March cases and deaths had begun to rise. If we repeat the same mistake, we are going to hit 1,200 deaths by Easter even with the present level of vaccinations.
No one has yet done a correlation between the rise of COVID-19 cases in the USA and the rise of COVID cases in Guyana. But it does not take much understanding to recognise that once COVID-19 infections rise in the USA, Guyana will also experience an increase in cases and deaths. And COVID-19 cases are rising in the USA.
The COVID-19 Task Force has relaxed the social restrictions to a point where we can safely say there are few restrictions in place. You still need proof of vaccination to get into government offices but at most supermarkets and stores you can waltz in without any questions. The curfew has also been shortened to the point of becoming irrelevant and because of this, there will be night-time spread of the virus which will counteract all the good work which the Ministry of Health has been doing. Like the government it serves, the COVID-19 Task Force has not seen it necessary to explain in detail the scientific basis of their decisions to relax the COVID-19 regulations and the abysmal failure to enforce the limited restrictions.
But the biggest culprit of all is vaccine hesitancy. And the age group where this is highest among adults is in the 18-37 age range – what we call young adults. Unless and until, there is a significant increase in the vaccination rate of this cohort, the virus will not go away and infected young adults will take the virus home and infect their elderly relatives.
Booster shots were supposed to have commenced this week but no one knows why this has not happened as yet. This will offer some additional protection to persons over 50 years of age and to younger persons with comorbidities.
We have seen a spate of recent deaths of persons in their 50s and even younger persons in their 20s. The booster should help to reduce deaths but it will not necessarily reduce new infections.
The road ahead will therefore be tough. But that is of our own making.
(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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