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Joint Services instructed to enforce COVID guidelines amid surge in cases

Last Updated on Monday, 22 March 2021, 16:21 by Denis Chabrol

Health Minister Dr. Frank Anthony on Monday warned Guyanese who are flouting the COVID-19 rules that they will be charged, even as the death toll and the number of positive cases continue to spiral in recent weeks.

Relating aspects of the discussion by the COVID-19 Task Force earlier Monday, he said a decision was taken to urge police and soldiers to enforce the COVID-19 guidelines that have been formulated to curb the spread of the viral disease. “One of the things that we have addressed with the Joint Services is that there must be increased enforcement of the COVID guidelines because if people continue to disregard these guidelines by not wearing masks, socialising, being very close to each other, gathering in these public spaces that they are closely together, we are going to have spread,” he told a news conference.

The Health Minister said figures show that there are 900 active cases-including a steep rise over the past three weeks in Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica) and Region Three (West Demerara-Essequibo Islands). “This is quite worrying,” he remarked.

As of Monday, 217 persons have died,  51 persons were hospitalised and  they include 12 are in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).  “People need to start taking this thing a little bit more seriously. I think people have dropped their guard a little bit and they think that COVID is over. COVID is not over,” he said.

Dr. Anthony believed that Guyanese have become a bit complacent about the disease that first infected and killed someone last year March. He said vaccination was not at a level where Guyana could see a reduction in the number of seriously ill persons.

He said the COVID-19 Task Force has also asked the Joint Services to go after speedboat and minibus operators and passengers who are not wearing masks. “We are going to be more stringent using the Joint Services to be able to enforce these guidelines. I think you’ll see more people being charged for not wearing masks and those that are not complying with the guidelines, I think they are going to see stiffer penalties coming their way,” said Dr. Anthony, a medical doctor by profession.

The Health Minister also expressed concern that COVAX has since dropped its allocation to Guyana from 100,800 doses to just about 23,000 doses.

He could not immediately say whether the Health Ministry would advise the Ministry of Education to reopen schools after the Easter Holidays, as is the desire by Education Minister Priya Manickchand.

Dr. Anthony said that with the eventual availability of more vaccines, more age ranges and categories of workers would be added to the priority list of persons.

Currently, the 50,000 vaccines are being used to target the 59,000 persons who are 60 years and older and 12,000 health care workers in the public and private sector.

The Health Minister said 50,000 doses of the Russian-made Sputnik vaccine are expected next week. Guyana will be obtaining 200,000 doses of that vaccine from Russia.