There are many tragic stories of loss of beloved, irreplaceable lives replicated in hundreds of thousands of cases worldwide as the COVID-19 pandemic ravages global mankind, with borders swept away by a virus that is no respecter of boundaries. The rich, the poor, the intellectuals, the uneducated– across every divide, all mankind is at risk, with no restriction to class, race or creed.
When the Coronavirus erupted into the global sphere from its reportedly original source in China, single cases became tens, then hundreds, then thousands, then millions of victims, with no surcease in sight. Instead, the deaths multiplied, with no respect for rank or status of persons, while Governments with research capabilities and capacities went into emergency mode to find a cure for the deadly pandemic ravaging even developed nations.
This highly contagious disease continues to spread and take lives because of the intransigence of persons to observe COVID-19 protocols and take the requisite precautions.
Here, in Guyana, health authorities continue to plead with Guyanese to adhere to the national COVID-19 guidelines and to take their COVID-19 vaccine. However, there seems to be no significant heed by many citizens of the danger to which they are exposing themselves and other persons when they continue to blatantly disregard guidelines, and vaccination levels are low in some communities as a result of persons refusing to be vaccinated.
Since the beginning of this year, the COVID-19 cases and death toll have continued to increase consistently. Guyana’s death toll now stands at 333, with 34 of those persons dying in May and the month is so far only 14 days in.
While the Joint Services have finally begun to up their enforcement of the national curfew and guidelines which were put in place to help curb the spread of the deadly virus, some of their own ranks are violators themselves. The situation with their own ranks is so grave that the Joint Services have had to issue a warning to their own, threatening condign actions. This comes just as the Joint Services had finally stepped up, after much criticism of the lack of enforcement, to help health authorities manage the enforcement of the COVID-19 guidelines.
While, for many months, law enforcement officers have been dispersing crowds, not many persons have been charged for breaching the guidelines, but that position has since changed, and tougher enforcement actions are now being taken.
Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony was quite candid when he said Guyanese have dropped their guard in taking precautions and following national guidelines to protect themselves from COVID-19. He had also pointed to the level of complacency currently seen, which is contributing to rising cases.
There is no doubt that non-adherence to precautions as outlined by health officials has reached an all-time high. Every day, persons are going about their daily routine as if they are not bothered at all about COVID-19 and its deadly effects.
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 are getting tough for adherence to the guidelines, this is one of the areas in which they would also need to ensure full compliance.
It must be noted, too, that COVID-19 can be spread by people who do not have symptoms and do not know that they are infected. For this reason, it is important that everyone wears a mask in public settings, and practise social distancing. Everyone wants the virus to be contained, so that they can get on with their daily lives, but this would not be possible if citizens are complacent or continue to ignore the health guidelines.