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Spike in COVID-19 cases forces shutdown of “specific” mining areas, wider testing

A steep increase in the number of COVID-19 cases mainly in Regions One and Seven on Monday forced government to order the closure of a number of areas in the gold mining sector and increase testing for the deadly coronavirus, the National COVID-19 Task Force announced.

“The enhanced containment measures will include cease work orders for specific areas in the mining sector, screening, wider testing, checkpoints and other measures in several locations within regions 1 and 7,” thee NCTF said in a statement.

Details are to be provided later and the “enhanced containment measures” in Barima-Waini and Cuyuni-Mazaruni regions would be published in the Official Gazette. The Task Force said  those measures  are classified as  “necessary and urgent” by the medical experts so as to prevent the wider spread of COVID-19 in these two regions along with other regions.

The decision was taken at an emergency meeting of the NCTF, Public Health Ministry, other ministries, government agencies and non-governmental organisations after Guyana recorded 21 new cases of COVID-19 Monday. 18 of  the new cases are in the Moruca sub-district of Region 1, and include 11 teachers in Moruca.

The health ministry is reporting that of the 39 tests conducted in the last 24 hours 21 returned positive results, pushing the number of persons isolated to 69 and those quarantined because of possible exposure to the virus to 24.

The number of coronavirus related deaths remains at 12 and those who have recovered have increased to  103.

Government said decisions were taken to implement enhanced containment measures within the affected areas in these regions and these will be gazetted shortly. Specific details will be provided subsequently.

Previously, the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) had resisted calls by the Guyana Human Rights Association and other civil society organisations for mining to be taken off the list of essential services, saying that it is a major foreign exchange earner and contributor to overall economic growth.

The GGDMA has said that it is working with the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) to develop a protocol for the mining areas.

The emergency meeting was chaired by Chairman of the NCTF, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo and attended by Vice Presidents Khemraj Ramjattan (Minister of Public Security) and Sydney Allicock (Minister of Indigenous Peoples Affairs), Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence, Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman, Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan, Minister of Education Dr. Nicolette Henry, Pan-American Health Organisation-World Health Organisation (PAHO-WHO) Country Representative Dr. William Adu-Krow, UNICEF Country Representative Sylvie Fouet, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Shamdeo Persaud, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr. Karen Gordon-Boyle, multiple Permanent Secretaries and several technical and medical experts from the Ministry of Public Health, the Health Emergency Operations Centre and the Guyana Defence Force.