Taking a tough stance against COVID-19 violators

As health authorities continue to plead with Guyanese to adhere to the national COVID-19 guidelines, there seems to be no heed by many citizens as to the danger they are exposing themselves and other persons when they continue to blatantly disregard these rules.
Since the beginning of this year, the COVID-19 cases and death toll continue to consistently increase. As of Sunday, the death toll was 229. What is noteworthy is that the Guyana Police Force (GPF) has finally begun to up its enforcement of the national curfew and guidelines, which were put in place to help curb the spread of the deadly virus. This comes after much criticism of the lack of enforcement by the Police to help health authorities manage the execution of these guidelines. While for many months law enforcement officers have been dispersing crowds, not many persons were charged for breaching the guidelines. However, over the weekend, Police ranks over on the West Coast of Demerara finally got tough and arrested and charged 14 persons, who were among 200 at a party. Despite being wrong and breaking the law, some of these very persons took to social media criticising the Police’s actions, which quite frankly were in order and correct. Only recently, Health Minister, Dr Frank Anthony said that Guyanese have dropped their guard in taking precautions and following national guidelines to protect themselves from COVID-19 and called on law enforcement to impose stricter penalties for violations. He had also pointed to the level of complacency currently seen which is contributing to rising cases.
There is no doubt non-adherence to precautions as outlined by health officials has reached an all-time high, and there is need for stricter enforcement. Every day, persons are just going about their daily routine as if they are not bothered at all about COVID-19 and its deadly effect.
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 is getting tough for adherence to the guidelines, this is one of the areas they also need to ensure full compliance.
Of note, too, is that even in cases where persons choose to wear a mask, they do not do so properly. Face masks should cover the nose, mouth, and chin. When not in use, the mask should be safely stowed away or discarded, and not be placed on any other part of the face or neck.
Mandatory mask-wearing and other preventative measures: handwashing/sanitising and social distancing, are the key measures to halt the severe impact of COVID-19.
With COVID-19 in Guyana, the Government, along with the various health partners, has wasted no time in stepping up the national response to contain the spread of the virus. However, citizens also have a role to play, and they must take that role seriously, or else the country will not be able to win the battle to control the virus.
The fact is, once the health guidelines to contain the spread of the virus are not taken seriously by citizens, the infection rates will continue to climb, and the country would take even longer before it could be fully reopened. This, we know, would have severe economic and social impacts on the country.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), masks are recommended as a simple barrier to help prevent respiratory droplets from travelling in the air and on to other people when the person wearing the mask coughs, sneezes, talks, or raises their voice.
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.
We support the Health Minister’s statement when he said: “We are going to be more stringent using the Joint Services to be able to enforce these guidelines. You will see more people being charged for not wearing masks and those businesses that are not complying with the guidelines will see stricter penalties coming their way. All of this can be avoided if people do the right thing. If we keep violating these things and allowing people to do the wrong thing, we are going to see spread.”