FITUG calls for improved protection, assistance for hinterland residents against COVID-19

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See below for full statement from the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG):

The FITUG has become expressly worried as we considered several media reports which speak to the increasing COVID-19 cases in our country’s interior regions. Recent reports have indicated that Regions One, Seven and Nine are seeing a high concentration of cases with outbreaks in several locales. For us, the situation is most frightening. We saw too in the media Region Seven Chairman, Mr. Gordon Bradford sharing the view that cases are expected to rise in that region.

We recognize that the new COVID-19 hotbeds are at a severe disadvantage lacking necessary facilities and needed infrastructure to adequately address the rising cases. This was confirmed by Regional Chairman Bradford, in a July 29 Newsroom report, was quoted to say “[m]ost of these areas we don’t have police stations or facilities, so that is proving to be another challenge for us…”. It appears that the lack of resources could greatly stymie the fight in these areas.

The Federation has learnt that the explosion of cases is linked to, among other things, persons illegally crossing our country’s borders. It was recently reported that some persons who engage in such practices do so with the cover of law enforcement officers. We are hopeful that this report is incorrect but nevertheless urge those charged with such responsibilities to act in a manner that stems the spread of the dreaded virus.

We do hold too that a lack of information, given the remoteness of some areas, could also be a challenge. Similarly, the vastness and population density and the transitory nature of some communities could bring their own unique difficulties as well. In as much as we recognize those realities, we contend, that there need to be proactive steps to contain the spread of the virus. We have seen the several warnings appearing in the media and elsewhere but wonder if they are really reaching the persons in these far-flung communities. At the same time, we are concerned about the preventative measures that have been employed to protect our front line workers; the officers of the forestry and mining commissions, and workers employed in the gold and forestry sectors, among others.

Also, we have to bemoan the lack of economic support to communities and individuals. It is accepted that staying at home is an ideal we should aim for but could only be met if people and their families can be able to cope with the economic realities of life. Guyana, unlike other nations, has not been proactive on this front and we contend that this is necessary to overcome the COVID-19 challenges. Of course, as we will soon enter the fifth month since the dreaded virus first arrived on our shores, the lingering economic impacts continue to grow more acute. Though some sections of the economy have re-opened the absence of sufficient economic activity has been most impactful. Almost daily, through social media and elsewhere, the Guyanese people hear about the difficult times that face many of our compatriots. We hear about the hardships of putting food on the table or paying bills as economic activity has reduced to a crawl and job and work opportunities have become scarce.

This, of course, is compounded by the inconclusiveness of the elections which has stalemated Government and made the situation even more disturbing. Clearly an important element to our success is having a legitimate and fully functional government in place. This sentiment was emphasised by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) which pointed out that the unsettled elections remain a detriment to adequately addressing the health crisis. Undoubtedly, this is a most severe and significant setback and is a massive brake to overcoming the deadly and dangerous pandemic. We are hopeful that the elections question can soon be answered and that a legitimate Administration [be in place].