We applaud the proactive response of President Irfaan Ali and his team to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Within a matter of hours of being sworn-in as Head of State, Dr Ali and his team were able to engage the various stakeholders within the health-care system, including doctors and technical officers to get a clear understanding of where the country is at the moment and plan the kind of response that is needed to bring a halt to the deadly virus.
While there are many issues that could be regarded as urgent for the new Administration to tackle head-on, President Ali has pointed out that the single most important one is that of confronting the pandemic using all the resources at its disposal.
It is clear that due to the rising cases and the number of deaths, Guyana’s response, under the previous Administration since the first case was detected in March, was way below par. There was much confusion and a lack of foresight by those who were tasked with managing the country’s response to the virus.
Of note too is the fact that those who were spearheading the country’s response were mere politicians who, as expected, were engaged in politics rather than ensuring an effective and efficient plan was put in place to reduce the number of persons being infected and dying of the virus.
President Ali has made a very wise decision to involve all the stakeholders, especially the health experts, as there is a need to adopt a much more focused approach to halting the spread of the pandemic.
Also, in keeping with his promise to govern in an inclusive manner, he has decided to seek the involvement of the other political parties. The aim is to develop and implement a thorough and effective plan that would address all aspects of the disease, including increased testing, detection, contact tracing, treatment and so on.
It is now past six months since the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared COVID-19 a public health emergency of international concern. This was the sixth time a global health emergency has been declared under the International Health Regulations.
At the moment, the end of the virus seems nowhere in sight and countries are grappling with finding a balance between reopening their economies and controlling the pandemic.
In Guyana’s case, the number of infections is increasing daily. Over the last few days, the cases have skyrocketed and even the number of deaths has gone up. This upsurge comes in the face of relaxed curfew hours, continued mining activities, and wide leverage for business operations to resume.
In the early stages of the virus, several countries, including Guyana, had announced partial or full lockdowns with the aim of eliminating the spread of the virus. Some countries were able to reopen within weeks, while others took months before they could have resumed their regular activities.
In some cases, countries which reopened were forced to reverse their decisions and had to impose lockdowns again due to a rise in infection rates as a result of persons not taking key prevention measures seriously.
WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus reiterated the need for continued vigilance against the disease and the need for authorities to ramp up tracking and tracing of contacts. He warned that the pandemic continues to accelerate, noting that in the past six weeks, the total number of cases had roughly doubled.
The WHO has made it clear that remaining determined to stop the virus in its tracks is key to ending transmission, along with a willingness to make “hard choices to keep ourselves and each other safe”.
The WHO has outlined that although our world has changed, “the fundamental pillars of the response have not: political leadership, and informing, engaging and listening to communities. Nor have the basic measures needed to suppress transmission and save lives: find, isolate, test and care for cases; and trace and quarantine their contacts.”
That said, while President Ali and his team are engaged in putting certain policy mechanisms in place and mobilising resources at the national level to fight the virus, we cannot overstate the responsibility of citizens to ensure that they too heed the advisories of the health authorities to take the necessary precautions and avoid being infected.