‘33,000 masks fiasco’ another indication we are entangled in a web of deception, corruption and insanity – Gail Teixeira

PPP’s Gail Teixeira

Letter by Gail Teixeira

The recommendation by the National COVID-19 Task Force that personnel involved in the national recount will need to change their masks every thirty to sixty minutes, amounting to at least 33,000 masks being needed for the duration of the exercise, has left the majority of Guyanese in disbelief.

Now on the 57th day, there is yet another subterfuge to delay the recount of the votes of March 2 General and Regional Elections! Another indication that we are entangled in a web of deception, corruption and insanity.

The source of this bizarre announcement emanated from the recommendations of a five-person medical team from the Ministry of Public Health who did a site visit to the Arthur Chung Conference Centre on April 20. The fact that it took 8 days for this information to become public is rather interesting, especially when there is no indication that the Commission made such a decision. Of course, this development is even more suspect when this information is released coincidentally after the announcement the evening before, that the Caricom high-level team will be arriving on April 30.

The report of the five-member team to the Minister recommended that “disposable or surgical masks should be changed/disposed of every 30 to 60 minutes” which it claimed follows WHO guidelines. As a result, with the vote recount expected to take at least 25 days, GECOM Secretariat calculated that at minimum 33,000 masks would be needed if they are changed every hour or 66,000 if changed every half hour.

The absurdity of this recommendation flies in the face of the WHO guidelines “Advice on the use of masks in the context of COVID-19”, Interim Guidance, April 6, 2020, which advocates “Replace masks as soon as they become damp with a new clean, dry mask; Do not re-use single-use masks; Discard single-use masks after each use and dispose of them immediately upon removal.” Note the WHO guideline has no requirement to change the mask every 30-60 minutes. How did these health wizards come up with such a crazy recommendation? Maybe the answer lies in a statement the Minister, as Chairperson of the PNC, made a year ago with regards to the qualification she was looking for in a doctor.

Further, this team even “advised against the use of tents for prolonged periods, that is, more than 2-3 hours and likewise the housing of staff for more than 10-12 hours in a 24 hours cycle,” which was another laughable recommendation considering in many developed countries, tents are being used to house COVID-19 patients and those in quarantine, and, even here, tents are being used in front of many public buildings and hospitals to screen people entering.

Not surprisingly, GECOM is supporting all the recommendations of this team, in sharp contrast to its unwillingness to obey the Chief Justice’s court orders of March 11 and 12 with regard to the way the verification and tabulation of Region Four votes was to be executed.

The fact that there is a global shortage of surgical and N95 masks, and, more especially here in Guyana, seems to have escaped this MoPH team. The fact that the National COVID-19 Stakeholders’ Forum is on a daily basis being approached to provide these masks and gloves to health practitioners in every part of Guyana makes that recommendation even more ludicrous.

The WHO guidelines are very careful to point out that the use of masks by the public should in no way lead to a mask shortage for health workers which would place a nation’s health personnel at risk. That is why it recommends cloth masks for civilian gatherings, which are washable and re-usable, coupled with social distancing and hand and surface sanitising. Surgical masks are, therefore, not needed for this recount.

Maybe the health team is unaware that right here in Guyana, doctors spend an entire day in the same mask doing surgeries and seeing COVID-19 patients due to the lack of procurement of medical supplies by the Ministry since 2019, long before the world knew about COVID-19. This team blithely seems to be unaware of the shortage of PPE for health staff right across the country, and, now is making a recommendation that would further reduce their access to masks and place them at greater risk than they are at the moment.

In fact, the Ministry does not have 33,000 surgical masks available in the country and it would take weeks to source this overseas even if they ordered weeks ago.

Of course, the genesis of all this is to create yet another impediment and further delays in holding the recount, to steal the will of the voters of March 2, 2020, and to extend the life of an already expired President and Government.

After 57 days since the March 2, 2020 elections, we are confronted with yet another unabashed travesty using the COVID-19 pandemic to violate the right of the Guyanese people to vote and choose their Government based on transparent, fair and credible results.

On April 24, 2020, the United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres publicly cautioned that “the crisis can provide a pretext to adopt repressive measures for purposes unrelated to the pandemic. This is unacceptable….. Those wishing to roll back human rights protections to take advantage of the crisis should think twice; …Basic principles of legality and the rule of law must be observed. Yet practice in some countries raise concerns…”

Guyana has joined the category of those countries, referred by the UN SG, that is circumventing the democratic will of the people by using the cover of the COVID-19 pandemic.

I hope that the United Nations and the OAS Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the WHO and the PAHO, have taken note of this latest development to undermine democracy and will stand up for the Guyanese people.

Isn’t it ironic that 53 days ago, March 6, 2020, Homeland Security News Wire reported that “results from the official certification of 80 per cent of the Statements of Poll already tallied, and counts of the official Statements of Poll published, but not yet officially tallied from the balance, show a 5 per cent victory by the PPP. That translates into 34 seats for the PPP, 30 seats for the APNU, and one seat for a minor party, in Guyana’s National Assembly. Under the country’s Constitution, the largest party automatically elects the President, who will be the PPP’s designate, Dr Irfaan Ali.

However, APNU refuses to concede and the APNU-controlled Elections Commission refuses to complete the official tally of the results from the remaining 20 per cent of the country’s 2300 polling sites – each of which counted and reported the actual votes four days ago.

Instead, the APNU Government is engaging in increasingly desperate attempts to void the election, and change the already-reported results.”

Since that report, nothing has changed, the Granger-led APNUAFC coalition facilitated by GECOM continues to hold on to power with their fingernails. The 33,000 masks is the latest invention to hold on illegally. But we shall endure and however long it takes, and, despite how many new impediments they invent, this too will pass. The PPP/C will be the new Government, Irfaan Ali will be the President of Guyana.