The World Health Organisation (WHO) has urged Governments everywhere to adopt a much-more focused approach to halting the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic if they want to avoid having to impose sweeping lockdowns once again.
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.
Thursday, July 30, marks six months since the UN agency 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.
The WHO this week announced nearly 16 million cases of reported infection worldwide and more than 640,000 deaths. 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. On Monday alone, there was detection of a whopping 19 new cases of the virus, thus bringing the total number of cases to 389. The figures saw a steep increase within the past three days, with eight cases on Saturday, 10 on Sunday and on Monday, 19 positive cases. This upsurge comes in the face of relaxed curfew hours, continued mining activities and wide leverage for business operations to resume.
WHO’s Head of Emergencies, Dr Mike Ryan, said it was very understandable that no country in the world that’s been through a lockdown wanted to go back there, as there were huge economic and other consequences. He explained that if you can understand the dynamics of transmission and be very precise in your disease understanding, you can be very precise in your response.
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.”
As stated by the UN Head, COVID-19 is menacing the whole of humanity – and so the whole of humanity must fight back.
Guyana must continue to be vigilant and ensure that all steps are followed as laid out by the WHO to prevent the further spread of the disease. Citizens also have a very important role to play in ensuring they heed the advisories being issued by the health authorities.
That said, for us in Guyana, we are in a very unfortunate situation, where it is close to five months now and the results of the national elections are yet to be declared, even though it is clear as to which party has emerged as the winner.
With many persons out of jobs, families on the brink of poverty and businesses downsizing or closing, one could only hope that the political impasse would be resolved very soon as this is a major hurdle in addressing the health crisis.
The current health crisis demands a legitimate government to be in place to get on with the task of providing relief for citizens, improving treatment and contact tracing and expanding testing.
Citizens cannot continue to suffer due to the refusal of the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) to accept defeat. The nation’s patience is running thin and the pressure must be stepped up on the coalition to demit office and allow the duly-elected Government to carry on with the business of development.