By Staff Writer

As Guyana continues to grapple with the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the two major political parties in Guyana are locking horns; accusing each other of using the virus to gain political points. This is occurring against the backdrop of 10 Coronavirus-related deaths, and over 100 positive cases confirmed within the last two months.

These accusations are being levelled even as the citizenry await the conclusion of the General and Regional Elections, which began some two months ago. The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is conducting a recount of the votes cast during that electoral process, following a pact made between the leaders of those parties. A high-level team from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is in Guyana observing the process at the request of the two local leaders and with the blessing of the regional bloc’s Chairperson, the Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley.

The electorate has already seen violent protests; allegations of electoral fraud; calls for international sanctions; and several court actions within the last two months.

Nine days after the ballots were cast on March 2, in what was deemed by all stakeholders as a smooth and transparent process, Guyana confirmed its first imported COVID-19 case. This prompted the Head of State, His Excellency, the incumbent President David Granger, to establish a National COVID-19 Task Force (NCTF) to exclusively implement preventative measures and remedies to issues relative to COVID-19. The body comprises largely of government ministers and appointees, many of whom, are candidates of the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC). Some of these officials have been seen on the frontline participating extensively in the recount process as their party seeks re-election.

Because of its composition and mandate, the Opposition, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), has labelled the NCTF as a political tool of the incumbent regime that is hellbent on stymieing the process – an accusation which continues to be fiercely rejected by the APNU+AFC.

The PPP/C is arguing that since the officials on the NCTF are candidates of the incumbent party, they are acting in a partisan manner since the task force holds the power to decide on the number of persons that can be housed at the recount venue, and the number of additional workstations that can be established to expedite the process. The NCTF also has the authority to grant or deny entry to persons desirous of coming to Guyana.

The Carter Center, an accredited foreign observer of the March elections, has been denied entry to Guyana twice as it seeks to return to complete its mission.

The PPP/C is throwing this at the feet of the APNU+AFC; saying that its refusal is an attempt to avoid scrutiny of the recount process and accused the government of using the pandemic to further delay and frustrate the recount exercise.

But the government said that CARICOM can do the job and asked that its decision be respected.

Public Health Minister, NCTF Member and APNU+AFC Candidate, Volda Lawrence, when asked to respond to the allegation that the NCTF is being politicised, levelled her own accusation against the PPP/C.
“If anybody wants to talk about politicizing COVID-19, see the PPP. They’re the ones who put people’s lives at stake. Since January, when we were talking about it, they were telling people that I was lying; I was using it as a political gimmick. When we said, okay, since we will not have enough police [officers] to man the entry into Guyana on our Suriname borders, I was told that I was using it as a political gimmick,” she stated.

She went on to say that the request made by the GECOM – for the NCTF to assesses the recount venue to determine if additional stations can be established – is still being processed. The Minister said that preventing the spread of the virus will be the basis for the NCTF’s response.

As of May 15, Guyana would have recorded 116 cases of COVID-19.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer (DCMO), Dr Karen Gordon-Boyle continues to stress that the fatality rate remains high in Guyana, and that this is a cause for concern. She reported that positive cases have grown significantly over the last two weeks as community transmission continues.

Some 43 persons have recovered thus far. A total of 1,065 persons have been tested.


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