by Samuel Sukhnandan
Two weeks after relaxing the daily curfew time by two hours, the government has now decided to revert to implementing the old curfew from 6 P.M. to 6 A.M, as the coronavirus death toll increased to 41.
This new measure takes effect from September 1 and ends on September 30, 2020, according to the order published in the official gazette on Monday by Health Minister Dr. Frank Anthony.
About 400 others have been isolated, with just over one dozen in the Intensive Care Unit.
The decision to curtail its previously given curfew relaxation time, is to allow the government to conduct further assessment and consultations in order to develop updated protocols.
According to the order, based on the rapid assessment done for coronavirus (COVID-19), the government said it found that it was “fragmented and incapable of administering the public health, economic and social measures needed to keep the population safe.”
It said that over the coming weeks, the government will engage each sector to develop clear protocols and guidelines based on the epidemiological evidence to keep people safe while allowing for a gradual reopening.
Restaurants and food establishments will remain open for delivery, drive-thru, curb-side pickup and takeaway, as well as outdoor dining but only between the hours of 6 A.M. to 5 P.M.
To date, Guyana has 1,234 positive COVID-19 cases, with a large number of these cases discovered in Region Four.
The Health Ministry said Monday that with the death of two patients, the death toll has gone up to 41.
The Health Ministry said both patients died before receiving their positive results, but did not disclose the exact location, time or date of these deaths. The victims are: a 47-year-old female from Region Seven and an 89-year-old male from Region Nine.
“The Ministry is asking that patient confidentiality be respected and the families be allowed to mourn in peace,” a statement said. As a result of these deaths, the ministry has commenced contact tracing and rapid assistance to everyone who may have been exposed to the virus.
Over the weekend, the Ministry had reported a total of six COVID-19 related deaths alone which contributed to the current total figure.
Plans are being made to send some 500 COVID-19 samples to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in Trinidad for testing, with some 1,500 samples to be tested at Guyana’s National Public Health Reference Laboratory.
Health Minister Dr. Frank Anthony said this would help to clear the current backlog. While results from CARPHA would be available after 48 hours; because the local lab facility is currently understaffed, results could take much longer. However, the government is looking to train more personnel to boost capacity there.
In addition to that 24-hour shifts have been implemented at the lab to have more samples processed. An automated Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) machine, which will cut down the testing time from an average of about nine hours to two hours, is being procured.
The Health Minister had said that there are more COVID-19 positive cases now because the reason for testing has changed.
Guyana’s testing capacity has increased dramatically, moving from an average of 30 to 100 tests per day in the past two weeks. Guyana, for the first time, was able to surpass the 200 mark on August 19 and did 248 on August 20 and testing has now moved close to 300 in one day.
Government has also launched a campaign dubbed #WearAMask to encourage Guyanese to stay protected. “By wearing a mask, you are sending a message of solidarity and protecting people, especially those most vulnerable, from COVID-19,” the ministry said.
Persons can participate in the challenge by taking a photo or a video of themselves wearing a mask, share it and nominate friends to do the same using hashtag #WearAMask.