President David Granger has removed day-to-day operations of the COVID-19 Task Force from Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo and handed them to Director-General of the Ministry of the Presidency, Joseph Harmon.
Among Harmon’s new responsibilities will be keeping Guyanese abreast with information on the virus that has so far afflicted 70 persons including 8 who died.
Harmon is designated Chief Executive Officer of the Task Force and Nagamootoo will remain the Chairman.
“The CEO is responsible also for disseminating accurate information with regard to COVID-19 to the public,” the Ministry of the Presidency said in a statement.
Previously, Nagamootoo had been providing periodic virtual news conferences.
Observers note that Harmon’s appointment appears to signal that the President still has a high level of confidence in Harmon. Granger earlier this month distanced himself from the hiring of a United States lobbying firm in the name of the Guyana government with Harmon as the point-person.
Granger’s overhaul of the administration of the National COVID-19 Task Force was made known Friday morning at a meeting of the National Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Task Force (NCTF).
The President said the CEO, under the general or specific directions of the Chairman of the NCTF is to establish a permanent National Task Force Secretariat; assign permanent staff to manage the national campaign; create preventative measures against the disease to safeguard citizens’ health and collaborate with regional task forces and stakeholders to safeguard citizens’ health.
Government says the CEO is responsible, under the direction of the Chair, for directing the NCTF operations and restarting interrupted activities; all important logistics measures necessary to prevent the disease from spreading further, directing rapid responses to unexpected and emergency incidents; developing short-term plans for disease prevention and safety of the people and communicating directly with agencies, ministries, regional task forces, agencies and stakeholders.
The Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Guyana (FITUG) earlier this week slammed the Nagamootoo-led Task Force for suspending the distribution of relief supplies to vulnerable groups, spending of more than GYD$1 billion of State funds on converting the flood-prone Ocean View International Hotel to a COVID-19 hospital, and criticising the opposition People’s Progressive Party’s (PPP) face mask distribution exercise as politically motivated.
“Many measures to address the plight of the ordinary people remain entrapped in bureaucracy of this or that committee,” FITUG has said.
President Granger has also announced also that Colonel (ret’d) Lawrence Paul, Senior Executive Director of the Bertram Collins College of the Public Service has been seconded to the NCTF. Dr. Mark Kirton will assume Colonel Paul’s post.
Similarly, Mr. Mark Archer, Director, Public Information and Press Service (PIPS) Unit of the MOTP has relinquished his appointment and will work with the NCTF on a full-time basis.
Ms. Ariana Gordon will assume the post of Director of the PIPS Unit effective April 25, 2020.
The Head of State iterated that efforts are being made continuously to strengthen the NCTF to the fight against the dreaded COVID-19. He assured that the Task Force and the Ministry of Public Health are working assiduously to overcome the challenges posed by COVID-19.