In his most recent ‘My Turn’ column, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo expressed that the appointment of former Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Harmon as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National COVID-19 Task Force (NCTF) Secretariat is a welcomed one. He also extended a warm welcome to Lawrence Paul and Dr. Mark Archer who were also recently given appointments within the NCTF Executive Secretariat by incumbent President David Granger.

Dr. Mark Archer

The Prime Minister, who is also the Chairman of the NCTF, wrote that given the situation of COVID-19, the country has to plan for the worst even as it hopes for the best, which was the reason for the strengthening of the NCTF with the new appointments.
He said, “The appointment of Lt. Col. Joseph Harmon as Chief Executive Officer (CEO/NCTF) and others to manage the command centre is a welcomed move.I have worked with Mr. Harmon, then Minister of State with responsibility for civil disaster, during episodes of flooding in Guyana and hurricanes in the Caribbean.”

Lawrence Paul

According to the Prime Minister, he can attest to the experience and capability of Harmon which will come in handy as the nation tackles the complex problems that have arisen and would arise as the country buckles down for a long fight against COVID-19, which is an all-people battle for survival.

The Ministry of the Presidency (MoTP) has already said that the appointment of Harmon, Paul and Archer are aimed at strengthening further the country’s fight against the dreaded disease. According to the MoTP, all three executives possess expertise that is vital to the country’s fight against the disease; all three executives were serving in different departments of the Ministry of the Presidency.

It said that Harmon brings years of experience and is Guyana’s first Minister of State in the MoTP since 2015. Harmon is an attorney-at-law by profession and a retired Lieutenant Colonel of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), who has experience in disaster risk management and has worked over the years with the Civil Defence Commission (CDC).

Harmon has led the Government on previous crises and emergencies and is familiar with the mechanisms which have to be effected to ensure that Guyana is capable of addressing the effects of the COVID-19 disease. He is skilled at mobilising and managing manpower and material resources.

“President Granger explained that he was confident in Mr. Harmon’s organisational and operational competence and managerial experience, which make him best suited for the post of CEO. He described him as a team player who has a clear vision of the objectives and urgency of the counter COVID-19 campaign and a commitment to overcome the challenges facing the country at this time,” the MoTP said.

On Friday, the President announced also the secondment of Colonel (ret’d) Paul, Senior Executive Director of the Bertram Collins College of the Public Service. Colonel Paul served as Deputy Chief of Staff of the GDF. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Public Management from the University of Guyana and a Master’s degree in National Resource Strategy from the National Defence University in Washington DC.

Archer, former Director of the Public Information and Press Service (PIPS) Unit has also been seconded to the NTCF on a full-time basis. He has three decades of experience as a medical professional at the clinical, research and managerial levels. Archer is assisting Harmon with getting the NTCF Secretariat staffed so it can be functional in the shortest possible time.

President Granger said the CEO’s first job will be to establish a permanent National Task Force Secretariat; assign permanent staff to manage the national campaign; create preventive measures against the disease to safeguard citizens’ health and collaborate with regional task forces and stakeholders to safeguard citizens’ health.

The CEO is responsible, under directions from the Chairman, for directing the NCTF operations and initiating 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 CEO is tasked also with the dissemination of accurate information with regard to COVID-19 to the public. In light of the foregoing, the MoTP emphasized that COVID-19 is a global pandemic which requires the highest-level of attention.  According to the MoTP, the NTCF will be drawing on the experiences of a cadre of persons who are well poised to help Guyana fight the disease.

President Granger has emphasised repeatedly the need for Guyana to respond with alacrity to the pandemic. He established the NCTF and on 16th March 2020, issued directions under the Public Health Ordinance (Cap.145) and international standard to prevent and control the spread of the disease and authorised the Minister of Public Health to take all measures considered necessary to restrain, segregate and isolate persons suffering from the disease and, or who may be likely to be suffering from the disease.


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