Guyana to remove COVID-19 restrictions, full reopening within days
…mask wearing, social distancing, vaccination to remain in place
With the aim of moving towards full reopening, the Government, through the National COVID-19 Task Force, is currently working on lifting the emergency measures that were put in place to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
This was confirmed by Director of the Task Force’s Secretariat, Colonel Nazrul Hussain, who explained that President Dr Irfaan Ali passed on the directive on Sunday to have this done at the soonest time possible.
“We are currently doing the paperwork so maybe in a few days [we will complete it and] the President will be able to sign off on it,” he noted.
According to Colonel Hussain, while they are looking at removing most restrictions, especially as it relates to capacity at public buildings such as places of worship, businesses and the hosting of events like parties and weddings, some protocols will still remain. These include vaccination requirements, social distancing and the wearing of face masks.
“We will have some restrictions still. It’s just the opening up means that many of the measures will be taken away… So, right now, we are working on that base on the President’s directives,” the Task Force Director posited.
Guyana first implemented the host of COVID-19 measures shortly after the first case was detected in the country on March 11, 2020. Over the past two years, these restrictions have been amended – strengthened as well as partially removed – in order to fit the situation of the pandemic in Guyana.
Colonel Hussain pointed out that the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country does not warrant the continued implementation of strict guidelines.
“What has been happening with us in Guyana is that based on the epidemiological situation, Government has been relaxing some of these measures and definitely because the situation has been favourable to us, we have not seen the need to [continue to] reinforce the measures,” he posited.
Nevertheless, with the country moving to open fully, Hussain explained that the Task Force will continue to monitor the pandemic in the country and take the necessary actions as required including reintroducing the restrictions in the case of surges.
“So, we will continue to monitor as we have been doing for the past two years,” he stated.
The Task Force Director went on to outline that in many countries around the world that have been opening, the practice is that measures are lifted and reinstituted as the need arises.
“So, it doesn’t mean [a surge] can’t happen… So, we still have to be guarded; we still have to take all the precautions. We can’t throw caution to the wind. It’s just a matter for us to open up in terms of having people [fully] go to school, businesses to [fully operate],” he added.
However, Colonel Hussain stressed that persons will now have to take responsibility in ensuring that they take the necessary precautions to continue to protect themselves and families including masking and getting vaccinated.
Meanwhile, as Government moves to remove the COVID-19 restrictions, the protocols that were announced on Saturday by the Task Force for specified capacity during the observance of Ramadan next month, will no longer be effective.
However, persons attending mosques will still be required to follow masking, social distancing and vaccine requirements.
“Those are things that we are working on right now to see how we will come up with new guidelines. So, it’s a work in progress,” the Task Force Director said.
Only last month, President Ali removed the midnight to 4am curfew that was imposed under the Emergency Measures. Over the past two years, the curfew timings had also been changed in keeping with the COVID-19 situation in the country.
The Head of State had reasoned that dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic is an evolution.
“We saw that there are many studies saying lockdown just help by 0.0001 per cent. What is needed in this stage in dealing with the pandemic are the protocols – ensuring all the agencies have the sanitisation device, ensuring that we continue to educate people on the vaccination programme, ensuring that the guidelines and protocols are observed. But for sure, we can’t continue with a prolonged curfew,” President Ali declared during his remarks at the launch of the 2022 edition of the “Explore Guyana” magazine.
But the President had also emphasised that persons need to exercise responsibility since the pandemic is still real. This means following the COVID protocols including the wearing of masks, social distancing, and getting vaccinated.
Meanwhile, only recently, Caricom (Caribbean Community) Secretary General, Dr Carla Barnett had opined that in the region’s post-pandemic economic recovery, it does not make sense to remain closed.
She had stated that one of the priorities of the region now is to ensure the opening up of economies but in keeping with the reality of the pandemic.
“We really cannot stay locked up… People have to produce; they have to eat. They have to do their business every day and you can’t do that in an extremely constrained social setting. Therefore, the notion that we have to free up, that we have to open up makes sense but we have to do it in keeping with what the scientific information says about the pandemic is evolving, how the virus itself has evolved and what the main concerns would be, which continue to be – we have to protect our most vulnerable populations,” Dr Barnett said ahead of the 33rd Caricom Inter-Sessional Meeting that was held earlier this month in Belize. (G8)