Caretaker President plans “unprecedented spending” to fight pandemic

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…but no Budget in sight

Guyana’s fight against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) poses a difficult journey, one that will require “unprecedented expenditure and outlay of resources to enable identification and testing, isolation, protection and treatment.”

This is according to Head of State, President David Granger, in an address to the nation over the weekend, more than a month after the March 2, General and Regional Elections.

Presently, Guyana is supposed to have in place an Appropriation Act or national budget for 2020 in addition to the setting up of the Twelfth Parliament by the end of this month.

The Guyana Elections Commission is not only still to declare a result for the recently held election but is also yet to commence a publicly committed recount.

President David Granger

However, according to the caretaker President, “we are becoming better prepared to provide proper personal protective equipment for the medical staff doing the testing and treatment tests and the materials and equipment such as beds, respirators and ventilators for those who become critically afflicted”.

He said too that the capacity for infrastructural and institutional accommodation is being expanded.

Granger in his address insisted that persons who become ill should have access to the best care in the shortest possible time, to ensure their recovery and rehabilitation.

At the time, Guyana had officially recorded six deaths with 45 others testing positive for COVID-19.

He used the occasion to “implore all Guyanese and residents to adhere to the emergency measures which have been promulgated by the Ministry of Public Health and published by the Government in the Official Gazette”.

Under those executive orders, citizens and residents have since been subjected to a range of restrictions including a national curfew.

President Granger’s exhortations of unprecedented spending to tackle COVID-19 comes on the heels of previous directives that permitted expenditure related to the pandemic by the Ministries of Public Health, Citizenship, Finance and Education among other budget agencies.

The executive order issued by the President under the Public Health Ordinance permits the Finance Minister expending from the Consolidated Fund, such sums of money as may be necessary for the effectual carrying out of identified measures to be undertaken by the various Ministries.

The order states that the “President considers that immediate action is necessary to address COVID-19 and declares COVID-19 as an infectious disease” warranting the special orders.

According to the Official Gazette, under the order, the Public Health Ministry shall take measures to “restrain, segregate and isolate persons suffering from the disease, or who may be likely from exposure to the infection suffer from the disease.”

Additionally, the Public Health Ministry shall speedily bury or cremate the corpses of persons that died as a result of the coronavirus in addition to providing curative care.

It said too that the Public Health Minister may “remove, disinfect, and destroy the personal effects, goods, buildings and any other article, material or thing exposed to infection from the disease”.

The Minister has also been empowered to prohibit or restrict the movement of persons within, to and from an infected area.

The order also empowers the Minister to call on the Guyana Police Force to provide enforcement assistance, as it relates to its duties under the order.

The order has also called on the Ministries of Education and Health to take measures to control the spread of COVID-19 across educational institutions and with respect to immigration matters.

“All Government agencies and Local Government authorities are urged to render assistance and cooperation to undertake critical, urgent, and appropriate response and measures in a timely manner to curtail and eliminate the COVID-19 threat.”

Additionally, it encouraged all citizens, residents, tourists, and members of the Private Sector to “act in accordance with the law and to comply with any lawful directives and advisories issued by appropriate Government agencies to prevent further transmission of the COVID-19 and ensure the safety and well-being of all.