As health authorities continue to plead with Guyanese to adhere to the national COVID-19 guidelines, there seems to be no heed by many citizens as to the danger they are exposing themselves and other persons when they continue to blatantly disregard these rules.
On Monday, the Head of State himself condemned persons for their reckless behaviour in breaching the COVID-19 guidelines thus endangering the lives of others while urging that persons act in a responsible manner. To quote him: “It is time for us to understand that sometimes we have to take responsibility and this is a case and a scenario in which we have to exercise that.”
Since the beginning of this year, the COVID-19 cases and death toll continue to consistently increase. As of Monday, the death toll was 258. What is noteworthy is that the Guyana Police Force (GPF) has finally begun to up its enforcement of the national curfew and guidelines, which were put in place to help curb the spread of the deadly virus. This comes after much criticism of the lack of enforcement by the Police to help health authorities manage the execution of these guidelines. While for many months law enforcement officers have been dispersing crowds, not many persons were charged for breaching the guidelines. However, over the weekend, Police ranks swooped down on private parties, gatherings and many social events. Only recently also, Health Minister, Dr Frank Anthony said that Guyanese have dropped their guard in taking precautions and following national guidelines to protect themselves from COVID-19 and called on law enforcement to impose stricter penalties for violations. He had also pointed to the level of complacency currently seen which is contributing to rising cases.
There is no doubt non-adherence to precautions as outlined by health officials has reached an all-time high, and there is need for stricter enforcement. Every day, persons are just going about their daily routine as if they are not bothered at all about COVID-19 and its deadly effect.
We have supported, and continue to support, the move by Government to make it mandatory for persons to wear masks while out in public, which was implemented since August 2020. Authorities have made it clear that it is not the Government’s intention to have persons locked up or fined for not wearing a mask while out in public. However, now that law enforcement is getting tough for adherence to the guidelines, this is one of the areas where they also need to ensure full compliance.
Of note, too, is that even in cases where persons choose to wear a mask, they do not do so properly. Face masks should cover the nose, mouth, and chin. When not in use, the mask should be safely stowed away or discarded, and not be placed on any other part of the face or neck.
Mandatory mask-wearing and other preventative measures: handwashing/sanitising and social distancing are the key measures to halt the severe impact of COVID-19.
With COVID-19 in Guyana, the Government, along with the various health partners, has wasted no time in stepping up the national response to contain the spread of the virus. However, citizens also have a role to play, and they must take that role seriously, or else the country will not be able to win the battle to control the virus.
The fact is, once the health guidelines to contain the spread of the virus are not taken seriously by citizens, the infection rates will continue to climb, and the country would take even longer before it could be fully reopened. This, we know, would have severe economic and social impacts on the country.
We support President Dr Irfaan Ali when he said: “Guyanese have to understand this is not a joke. This is their lives they’re playing with. You can’t put your life in the hands of the Task Force. You have to have value for your life. If you don’t understand that your life has a value, then at least understand that your actions will impact other persons’ lives and appreciate the value that other people place to their lives.”