Nov 26, 2021 Editorial
Kaieteur News – For those Guyanese interested in the devastations that can be wreaked by the COVID-19 pandemic, they don’t have to think of Wuhan or India. The swath of destruction and some of the root causes are right next door in a place familiar to many Guyanese: Manaus, Brazil.
Thanks to The Telegraph, and its reporter, Sarah Newey, embedded in Amazonas, we have a story titled “A perfect storm. How did one city lose so many to COVID-19?” The brutal lessons of Manaus have some eerie messages for us here. We, who have taken all the precautions known to man. We, who have been slow, casual, and not taking the recommended actions. We who rightly fear the fallouts from those who don’t care, those who seek to exploit the situation, those who minimise the potential consequences of what is going on, and the likelihood of it happening here. This is the misery of Manaus. May it never come close to being something similar here.
Things got so bad so quickly that “The hospital system was on the verge of collapse, with ICU occupancy surpassing 100 percent…” Ambulances were working round the clock without interruption, with graveyards visited with an unending procession of the dead and those mourning their passing. This barebones combination forced a leading politician in the state to share that, “Our state is no longer an emergency; it is a calamity.”
It is why the outbreak in Manaus attracted the interest of epidemiologists around the world. What made the city so vulnerable? Why did the virus spread so fast? The answers have an eerie resemblance to what is almost the norm in Guyana. There are some cautionary tales for us, if only we care to listen, to be concerned, and to act accordingly.
First, “the viral storm in Manaus followed a party. In late February, as the first 1,000 infections were confirmed outside China, the city was engulfed in carnival – the Brazilian festival to mark the beginning of Lent.” We know about the days leading up to Lent in Guyana, which are not alarming. Rather, it is of our weddings, and house parties, and the long December Christmas Season, and how we are on all those occasions. We say no more.
Second, “People here thought that the climate and the isolated geography would prevent an outbreak,” says Lucas Ferrante, a researcher at the National Institute for Research in Amazonia (INPA). We have those here, too.
Third, “the disease had a firm hold in…crowded markets where social distancing was implausible”, and to which we point to our own crowded river crossings and bus parks, and malls and bars and so forth. By now, a picture should be emerging that is troubling in its parallels.
Fourth, “the state’s assistant secretary for health, Dr. Thales Schincariol, insists that the government “did nothing wrong”, which should sound right at home here, with that being the automatic first and every line of defense.
Fifth, “in the Amazonas high rates of comorbidities, including diabetes and hypertension, made infections more severe,” Dr. Schincariol notes.
Sixth, “He adds that much of the population ignored social distancing rules and regulations mandating face masks. This is in part because many here are Jair Bolsonaro supporters – the country’s President has repeatedly downplayed COVID-19 as “little flu”.
Seventh, the “pandemic was also exacerbated by existing disparities; isolating at home was a luxury for the wealthy. For large inter-generational families living together…social distancing was an almost impossible feat.
Eighth, “According to a churchman, decades of opportunism are to blame for inadequate resources.”
“But it doesn’t work because of corruption. If people weren’t robbing the system”. He was speaking of much money spent, little benefits gathered. We think of COVID-19 cash relief, and vaccines obtained under a cloud. All fit.
Ninth, “experts at São Paulo University” believe “that immunity may only be temporary.” And “we’re using herd immunity as an argument for why we don’t need to act.”
We urge our fellow citizens to take a close look at all of those points, and ask if we are not behaving in mostly the same ways. The people of Manaus paid a bitter price. Are we ready to pay the same? Can we pay it?
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