Collective efforts needed to tackle COVID-19 pandemic – FITUG

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Following is a statement from the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG)

The Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG) has taken careful note of His Excellency President Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali’s Address to the Nation in regard to the National Strategy to confront the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since the arrival of the virus on our shores, our federation has been keenly following the unfolding situation, and has been aggressively championing measures to alleviate the hardships faced by many Guyanese.

During the closing days of the Coalition Administration, we advanced several proposals, which unfortunately were not considered by that Administration. It was therefore with some degree of comfort that we learnt from the President that his Administration is working aggressively to roll out measures to stanch the spread of the disease, to assist those in hardship, and to stimulate economic activity.

Much of what His Excellency shared was previously championed by FITUG. We are most pleased that the President and his team had obviously been listening to our calls, been soberly assessing them, and is now taking them onboard.

The nation was also told that there is more work being done to advance a robust programme to ease the suffering of our people, who have been burdened for many months now. This, for the Guyanese people, must be pleasing news; and we are sure that they, like us, are anxiously waiting to see what the new Government would do in the people’s interest.

Further, we were happy to learn that emphasis is being placed on getting the educational pursuits of our nation’s children back on track. This was a matter that had also deeply concerned the FITUG, given its obvious inimical repercussions. Clearly, what is required are unorthodox and novel solutions which take account of our geographic, economic and other challenges.

We were, moreover, happy to see that daily testing has been doubled, allowing us to have a clearer picture of the true extent of the situation regarding the novel coronavirus. The FITUG had, many weeks ago, advocated for more aggressive testing. We felt that this would have allowed the nation to get a better handle on the situation. Unfortunately, this logical suggestion had fallen on deaf ears, and testing was often pursued when infected persons reached a critical state.

Nevertheless, we expect testing to be heightened, and while this may reveal a bleaker picture, it provides critical data to correctly analyse the situation.

At this time, the FITUG recognises a call from some for a national lockdown to be implemented. While on the surface this seems to be prudent, we hold that such a measure needs to be thoroughly considered. We must take into account those workers who have no economic cushion, or had such cushions already exhausted. Also, the prolonged impact on the economy must be taken into account. Inasmuch as a lockdown may bring some respite, any lasting success can only be realised if we, the Guyanese people, act in a responsible and safe manner.

We continue to observe many persons not wearing, or inappropriately wearing, their masks. Also, too many people continue to unnecessarily congregate, disregarding the social- distancing requirements. No lockdown or curfew can cure such irresponsibility; rather, it is our collective actions as Guyanese that would see us through this crisis period.

We again urge, as we have done before, every Guyanese to wear a mask when in the public space; observe social distancing, and practise sanitisation. It is these actions that would bring the lasting solution we seek.