The recent move by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to declare an outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo a global concern has caused Guyana to put measures in place to safeguard port health authorities and passengers.
This is in light of the fact that Guyana, as a third world country in South America, is no less safe than its neighbours. To this effect Dr Kay Shako, Director of Regional Health Services and current Chief Medical Officer (ag), has noted that “to this effect, it is imperative that measures be adopted to as advised by the WHO relevant to safeguarding all passengers and our ports of entry.”
She noted that in such response, particular emphasis is always placed on monitoring civil aviation activities, especially international travel, given that this medium can facilitate the movement of communicable diseases via infected passengers, thereby spreading the threat. The processes related to air travel, specifically those associated with outgoing passengers, incoming passengers and activities on board an aircraft, can be managed to control the spread of any communicable diseases.
However, Dr Shako noted that “At this time, the risk of contracting Ebola currently has diminished and as such only the basic measures/SOPs shall be implemented.”
The WHO has established Phases of a Pandemic which can be compared to colour-coded Alert Levels. These are Alert Levels: Green, Yellow, Orange and Red. Alert Green requires no security measures to be adopted because there is no risk of the disease being communicated. Nevertheless, it is important to conduct periodic exercises to test the effectiveness of equipment and the communication channels and to ensure that personnel are adequately trained. Alert Yellow would require basic security measures, whilst Alert Level Orange would require maximum security. Alert Red would be the stage where WHO would have declared a Pandemic and the commencement of an ‘activation of security measures’ would be executed.
Guyana is currently embracing the Yellow Alert.