Between March 5 and August 2, a period of 150 days, Guyana, under the APNU+AFC, conducted 4,705 COVID-19 tests, an average of 31 per day. Most of those 4,705 tests were done in June and July. For the period March, April and May, Guyana’s testing rate was absolutely atrocious. The March 5 date is when a lady was suspected to be infected with the COVID-19 virus.
Between August 3 and September 6, a period of 34 days, the new PPP Government conducted 5,057 tests at an average of 150 per day, five times more than what were conducted by the previous Government. Around the world, testing is one of the most important public health strategies in the fight against COVID-19. At the beginning of August, Guyana ranked among the bottom countries for COVID-19 testing. The new Government is transforming the way we fight COVID-19. The lack of testing before August allowed undetected COVID-19 cases to circulate in the population, spreading the deadly seed among people in every community. Today, we have a crisis because of the David Granger Government’s policy of neglect.
Last week, the former President of Guyana, David Granger, who said very little about COVID-19 from its first appearance in Guyana to the time he exited the Office of the President (almost six months), suddenly had a lot to say about Guyana’s surge in COVID-19 cases. Essentially, he claimed the new PPP Government abandoned the strategy of containment implemented by his APNU+AFC Government.
The testing policy and the overall strategy to fight COVID-19 before August 1st was never a policy of containment; it was a policy of little to no testing, a policy of neglect. The rationale was that if there is no testing, Guyana does not have to admit we failed to stop COVID-19. That policy of neglect has led to the widespread transmission of COVID-19 across Guyana, and to a surge in deaths. Guyana has been fighting back since the beginning of August, and while the news sometimes seems bleak, Guyana will win this fight.
As at September 6, 2020, Guyana had recorded a total of 1,560 COVID-19 cases. Guyana also recorded, as at that date, 47 deaths. Brazil has recorded more than 4 million cases and 126,000 deaths; Venezuela has recorded 52,000 cases and 420 deaths; Suriname 4,320 cases and 77 deaths so far. In all the countries surrounding Guyana, the COVID-19 surge is still on the upward trend. It is therefore not shocking that Guyana also is on the upward surge. In fact, the new PPP Government has abandoned the policy of neglect of the previous Granger-led Government.
One of the reasons for the surge in new documented cases of COVID-19 is that the new PPP Government has totally rejected the previous Granger-led APNU+AFC Government’s timid testing policy. The Granger Government, with COVID-19 cases exploding around the world, made no preparation for fighting COVID-19 in Guyana. One of the most egregious examples of non-preparedness is that by the time the first case of COVID-19 was noticed in Guyana, the country had not prepared itself to test for COVID-19. PAHO/WHO and CARPHA had to hurriedly get the first suspected case in Guyana tested. That person died, and her status was confirmed by testing done post-mortem. On the day the WHO had accumulated enough evidence to deem the spread of COVID-19 a pandemic, Guyana had still not established a regime for COVID-19 testing.
This monumental negligence on the part of the Granger-led APNU+AFC Government has resulted in the present crisis Guyana faces. Between January 1 and July 31, a period of seven months – during which COVID-19 went from cases in just a few countries to being declared a public health emergency in February, and then a pandemic on March 11 – Guyana had conducted a paltry 4,705 COVID-19 tests. Of that amount, there were 413 positive COVID-19 cases and 20 deaths. We now know that there were other deaths in that period, but the results of their COVID-19 tests were only confirmed in August, and therefore were reported only in August. From August 1 to now, a period of about 5 weeks, Guyana has conducted another 5,057 tests and recorded another 1,147 COVID-19 cases. In less than five weeks, the new PPP Government has conducted more tests than the previous Granger APNU+AFC Government did in more than six months.
But there is another truth. While some of the deaths documented in August occurred in July and before, there might also have been deaths before August that have never been documented. The previous Government thought one way to demonstrate success is not to know, by not testing. The new Government wants to know, and want the people to know. It is the only way we could win the COVID-19 fight. But during all this time, when people were not earning and were in dire economic circumstances, the previous Government did not step in to support families. The new PPP Government is finding ways to help people; example, every household will receive a stimulus payment of $25,000. It is a Government that cares. We will win the COVID-19 fight.