PAHO Rep urges citizens to take ‘social distancing’ seriously

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Pan American Health Organisation Representative, Dr William Adu-Krow

The fight against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is intensifying around the world and in an effort to contain the spread of the deadly virus, Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) representative, Dr William Adu-Krow is recommending that social distancing and isolation be taken seriously.

This comes in light of Guyana receiving its first imported case of the COVID-19 over two weeks ago when a 52-year-old woman travelled from New York to Guyana on March 5. The woman showed signs of pneumonia and was said to be diabetic as well.

It was reported that she visited a private medical institution where she was suspected of having the virus, owing to her symptoms, and was referred to the Georgetown Public Hospital where she died a few days later.

Posthumous tests revealed she was positive for COVID-19 which caused an immediate panic in the health care system. Further tests have revealed that her husband, child and a relative are all carriers of the virus.

Initially, the Public Health Ministry placed the family on self-isolation. However, there were reports of the family allegedly holding a wake for the victim, which resulted in a number of persons coming into contact with the infected persons.

The MoPH last week decided to impose a mandatory quarantine on those who are tested positive for the virus, as the Ministry established four sites for isolation.

These sites have been facilitated to deal with persons of three categories – suspected cases, probable cases, and confirmed cases. The suspect category is for persons who have been exposed in one way or the other to the virus.

But the PAHO representative is contending that “the 80 per cent that have moderate condition should have home isolation or self-quarantine and the 10-20 per cent that have severe may be admitted to the hospital depending on the case but otherwise strict home isolation, the 5-10 per cent that is critical, definitely no hospital.”

Dr Adu-Krow is also of the belief that persons who do not adhere to strict self-isolation must be institutionally isolated.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has released an assessment in which it ranks Guyana among the few countries in the region least prepared to deal with the effects of the coronavirus epidemic, particularly the negative effects it will have on the economy and tourism.

In the assessment, the IMF rated countries in the Americas from red (least prepared) to green (most prepared). Countries like the United States and Canada were in the green zone. However, Guyana, Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras are not so lucky.

Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even death.

Recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs, avoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.

Additionally, MoPH advises that the only facility in Guyana that is capable of testing for COVID-19 is the National Reference Lab operated by the Ministry.

Local health authorities have advised that if anyone is experiencing symptoms of coronavirus, they should contact the hotline on 227-4986 ext 215 or 624-3067 and a team would be sent to their location.