The ANU/AFC Opposition has sought to lambaste the current Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic without providing any solution or offering to work with the administration to contain the deadly virus. This is not the kind of behaviour that is needed at a time when all stakeholders should be pooling their efforts and ideas to confront the pandemic. While it is not our job to defend the Government in any way, we have a duty to the nation to analyse the performance of any administration in an objective and fair manner, and generally to say it as we see it.
Indeed, there has been a significant increase in positive cases and deaths being recorded due to the virus in recent months. This is the case in most countries around the world, and Governments all over are still trying to grapple with the situation.
In Guyana’s case especially, one has to take into consideration the state of affairs the new PPP/C Government inherited when it took office on August 2. This was well publicised in the media, and the President himself, in a recent address, reminded the nation of what obtained during the previous administration’s tenure.
As stated by the President, during the five-month post-election period, citizens not only patiently awaited the election results, but were forced to confront the effects of the pandemic alone, without any tangible support from the Coalition Government.
“The coronavirus pandemic triggered a downturn in production, a slowdown of business, and the loss of jobs and incomes. Many families struggled to put food on their tables; many small businesses found themselves in a financially perilous state. Schools had to be closed; examinations adjusted and our health care system was left to rot, with no basic medical supplies procured in the last two years”.
He added that instead of a comprehensive, coherent and coordinated response to address the pandemic, the former government’s reaction was illusory, incoherent and inept.
In relation to testing, this was very low. According to the President, there were insufficient quantities of testing kits, testing equipment, protective gear for frontline workers, ventilators and oxygen concentrators. Additionally, the Infectious Diseases Hospital turned out to be an inoperable, bareboned facility. Further, many regional hospitals were ill-equipped to treat severe cases of the virus.
On top of all of this, citizens were provided with little or no relief, although many of them had been without employment for several months.
As soon it took office, the Government was able to hit the ground running, even though there was a severe lack of financial resources. A comprehensive and multifaceted response to the pandemic was crafted, including establishing a taskforce that included medical personnel and regional/international partners.
The national testing capacity was significantly increased, to the point where as many as 600 tests per day are being done. The Ministry is working to take this number up to 1,000 very soon.
Also, along with the support of the various international partners, the Government was able to acquire adequate supplies of personal protective gear, and allocated $150M in the emergency budget for frontline workers.
Additionally, ventilators, oxygen concentrators and other equipment necessary for treating patients have been received, and are being operationalised. Of note, too, is that the Infectious Diseases Hospital has been retrofitted, making it suitable for offering meaningful patient care, while at the same time the capacity of regional hospitals to treat coronavirus patients has been enhanced.
Just recently, this newspaper reported that Guyana will now be able to strengthen its public health response to COVID-19 through a US$22 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). The loan will be used for, among other needs, the purchase of medical equipment, laboratory equipment and inputs, ambulances, and personal protective equipment for health workers, surveillance officers, border personnel. The operation will benefit the affected population of Guyana that receives emergency assistance under the proposed coverage.
The Government has assured that when a vaccine becomes available, Guyana will be part of the worldwide immunisation process, as it has signed on to the facility being provided by the Vaccine Alliance, which will provide the country with access to the vaccine.
While there are still many gaps to be filled, to its credit, we believe, the PPP/C has done extremely well in its first 100 days in office in relation to the manner in which it responded to the pandemic. We would suggest that the Opposition work with the Govt in a mature and collaborative manner to confront the virus.