Guyana faced with yet another roadblock in this unending journey of vote recount – Ramsammy

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Following is a letter by Former Minister of Health Dr. Leslie Ramsammy: 

Two weekends ago, GECOM insisted it could not indicate a start date for the recount because it was awaiting the Moses Nagamootoo-led COVID-19 Task Force’s instructions. This past weekend, GECOM declared it was awaiting word from CARICOM when its High-Level Team would be available.

CARICOM called the GECOM bluff and said the team would arrive on Thursday. I was waiting to see what the excuse would be for this weekend, for I am certain that GECOM will come up with another contrived bogus excuse to not start the recount.

There was more than a hint yesterday when it was revealed that the COVID-19 Task Force had issued bizarre directives that GECOM must provide face masks for all those participating in the recount, and that the face masks be changed every 30 to 60 minutes. This means GECOM needs more than 33,000 face masks, and up to 66,000 face masks, and even more if the recount exceeds 25 days.

Well, Guyana does not have that large number of face masks available. Just this morning, I arranged for a few doctors and some health centre nurses to obtain face masks, since the GPHC and the Ministry of Public Health were unable to provide them with face masks. The Irfaan Ali-led National Multi-Stakeholders Forum provided the GPHC staff with 1,500 PPE packages last week, but aside from the team working directly with COVID-19 patients, other staff members must use the same face masks all day, whenever they are provided with masks, and some are told they must reuse them too.

That those who would be engaged in the recount must wear face masks is not in dispute, not a debatable subject. As a former Minister of Health, I would have demanded it. From perusing the outrage emanating from the news of 66,000 face masks for the recount exercise, I did not see anyone objecting to the use of face masks. The outrage is about the requirement for changing every 30 minutes or every 60 minutes. I have checked all the guidelines, from the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) to the US CDC’s. I cannot find any guideline that led to this recommendation.

The COVID-19 Task Force in Guyana supposedly visited the Convention Centre on April 20 and made this recommendation for GECOM, but it is only now being forwarded. I know most of the members of that public health team that made the recommendation. Many of them worked with me, and I know they cannot stand before me, look me in the eyes and justify that recommendation. They and their CMO know they would have had to include the scientific evidence to back up that recommendation.

I have looked up for an example of this, and I cannot find one anywhere in the world. It is not good enough to say “but this is Guyana”, where we like to be the first in stupidity. After all, we were the first ones to require a bunch of international judges to tell us that 33 is more than 32. We are also now the first ones that require more than 60 days and counting to count 450,000 votes.

Other countries count a billion votes in less than a week. South Korea had an election two weeks after us, and, on the same night that 17M people voted, they counted all the votes and swore in a President the next day. We cannot even start a recount after more than 40 days.

The team members that supposedly recommended masks be changed every thirty minutes themselves do not practise that at work. Many staffers of the Ministry of Public Health, staff members working under those very people, do not even wear masks. When they do, they do not change their masks every 30 minutes or every 60 minutes. Worse, the doctors and nurses — high-risk workers — do not change their masks every 30 to 60 minutes. How can a team make recommendations like this and not make it for the health workers?

Even as I am writing this note, I am being called by staff members of hospitals, asking for help to obtain masks for their use, since their hospitals are not providing enough to allow even one mask per day, and they are often told to reuse whatever they have.

But, for the recount, the COVID-19 Task Force, chaired by Moses Nagamootoo and with Joe Harmon as the CEO, demands that recount personnel must change masks every half-hour. This is a contrived demand, intended not for safety, but to create another roadblock to delay the recount.

Two things are likely to happen for this weekend to delay the recount: first, they will start a procurement process and insist they must await the arrival of the masks; second, there will be a corrupt procurement transaction in which one of their pre-selected vendors will have an inflated-cost contract to supply the face masks.

This weekend, just like the last two weekends, we will be awaiting the removal of yet another roadblock in this unending journey of recounting the ballots, a task some second-graders could have completed in a few days. The country that needed the CCJ to tell us that 33 is more than 32 is now confused, and cannot figure out how to start a recount. This is the country that set up a patient tent in the GPHC compound for a 24-hour use, but insist that recount personnel cannot safely use a tent in a secure, off-limit compound for the recount. Or is it that there are more sinister things on their reprehensible minds?