The following is an opinion piece by Gillian Burton Persaud
As the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic as a devastating health issue which have claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of persons, in Guyana the reality and seriousness of its impact has not hammered home as yet. Sad to say that many of those who should be taking the lead on this very important issue in a positive and responsible way have found it convenient to use it in a manner that is far from what should be.
It can be summarized that COVID-19 instead of being treated as a health issue is being used as a political tool by those with sinister motives much to the frustration and disbelief of many Guyanese. Instead of coming up with tangible recommendations and solutions on how we can combat this pandemic we have witnessed unauthorized and medically uncertified illegal government personnel implementing policies that are unrealistic and draconian to say the least.
Due to the insensitive, irresponsible and clandestine approach of those whose only motive is to impose their will on others by using the electoral process as their medium, many Guyanese have seen it as non-important to take the necessary precautions to protect themselves and family from the Corona Virus. Therefore, what is much needed is heightened countrywide awareness campaigns to educate citizens on what is and the importance of protection from the Corona Virus.
On May 11th, Head of the COVID-19 Task Force in Guyana Joseph Harmon announced that the Task Force was contemplating the imposing of a countrywide lockdown to rapidly deal with the rise in confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Guyana. Though this have been one of the ways used by many countries to contain the spread of the virus, there are systems that those countries did put in place in relation to a lockdown implementation.
There are questions that must be addressed while we contemplate any countrywide lockdown. For one many workers will be sent home both from the Public and Private Sector. Who will pay them their salaries? In the absence of an Income how will they sustain and maintain themselves and family. What system will be put in place for those persons who have bank loans, mortgages, hire purchase installments, rent, utility bills, education fees, hospital bills insurance bills etc. to pay? Will persons be able to retain their jobs after the lockdown is over? What help will businesses receive due to the fact that they will be losing revenue and might have loan repayments to honour? Was the Labour department, Trade Unions and Private Sector approached for guidance and input on this matter?
Mr. Harmon’s announcement have certainly instilled levels of fear in the minds of many persons, since we have witnessed the CDC’s inability to provide basic items to the most vulnerable in our society at this time more or less to an entire country. With an overdraft of over $75 billion at the Bank of Guyana where will the finance come from to sustain this implementation?
The health of a nation is the wealth of the nation and workers are the most valuable resources of a country for it is they who keeps the wheels of industry turning. Therefore, it is mandatory that issues such as COVID-19 and workers’ preservation be treated with equal urgency and importance. In addressing these issues one must never use them for self- aggrandizement or political manipulation. To do this will be disastrous to the wellbeing of a nation.