Letter: We are just putting an entire nation at risk

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Dear Editor,

Let me begin by commending the Government of Guyana and the Minister of Health for their efforts thus far in managing the COVID-19 situation in Guyana. The Government has made available to all a variety of COVID vaccines, and has managed to operationalise the Infectious Disease Hospital in a short space of time to assist in the fight against this pandemic.

Further, I would also like to commend the Government for the COVID Cash Grant. In these trying times, it’s refreshing to know you have a Government that cares.
With that said, I move on to the National COVID Task Force, the body which was given the power by the President to craft the policies and restrictions for us to follow during the time of this pandemic, and to plead my case with them.

I noticed that Private Sector Commission (PSC) and several businessmen and women, particularly those who operate bars, were the ones who petitioned the Task Force to allow for the reopening of businesses. Further, these bars owners even petitioned for the curfew to be moved from 6:00pm to 10:30pm. I was in support of this, since these businesspeople had made a compelling argument that they would follow all protocols, and even made some suggestions of their own. Also, the loss of income was starting to impact communities and families.

However, this needs to be reassessed now. Over the weekend, bars across Georgetown, East Coast, East Bank and in Region 3 (E/bo Islands/W Demerara) were packed to capacity, and no one therein was wearing a mask. Some places do not even require persons to produce proof of vaccination, all in breach of the COVID-19 Guidelines which were gazetted for the month of September.

What is very important to note is that these bar owners/operators and promoters/party organisers go unpunished, and, in my view, directly contribute to the rise and spread of COVID, since most of them close their bars at 9:30pm.

For a few quick examples: one of the bars in Sandy Babb Street, Kitty was overflowing with patrons, and there was not a soul with a mask on. They got away with it because they closed at 9:30pm. Similarly, an event was hosted at a ground on Carifesta Avenue, and the same situation obtained. As another example, an event was hosted at Woolford Avenue, and reports are that at least 40% of the attendees have now contracted COVID-19.

Since June or July 2021, cases and number of deaths continue to rise daily. As I was writing this letter, the number of deaths stood at 762, while the number of active cases was over 4,000, from about one-third of the population tested. This should be of concern to any persons, yet everyone in Guyana is so relaxed as if we have beaten COVID.

Every day in the newspapers, the Minister of Health is pleading with persons to take the vaccine and to observe the COVID-19 Guidelines. As a result, I believe the COVID Task Force should reimplement the closure of bars and all parties and such activities until we have achieved desirable vaccination numbers and it is safe. In the current state, we are just putting an entire nation at risk by allowing these bars and clubs to be open, without any monitoring to ensure they are following the protocols outlined.

Yours truly,
Rawle Nichols