(Ministry of the Presidency release) President Irfaan Ali has assured that strong protocols will be put in place and enforced before his Government moves to fully reopen the country. President Ali gave this assurance during an emergency multi-stakeholder meeting held on Tuesday, August 25, where he emphasised that any decision taken will be made to ensure a crucial balance is met and only after careful consideration of all of the factors.
“The balance requires very strong protocols and I think, therein lies the trick to this pandemic; the protocols and enforcing the protocols. Now, we can move to reopening once we have strong protocols that can be enforced and once we have the institutional mechanism to support those protocols,” the President said.
The Head of State also reiterated the call made from the PAHO/WHO Country Representative, Dr. William Adu-Krow that countries need to consider both the health and well-being of the citizens as well as the health of the economy.
“As my brother from PAHO will tell you, we don’t want to find ourselves in a situation where we have the pandemic, dealing with the health side and then you have a major socio-economic disaster on the other side; we will be completely destroyed. So, we have to find the balance,” President Ali said.
With regards to the input from other stakeholders at the meeting, the Head of State pointed to the vital role that the Private Sector will play in relation to any decisions moving forward.
“As President, I thought that I have a responsibility to provide leadership on this issue and that leadership must be supported by a wide cross-section of the Guyanese population and their views. So, at the end of this interaction, we will have to revisit some issues and charter the way forward,” President Ali said.
The Head of State also provided an update on the investments made and his Government’s efforts to ensure that all steps taken to mitigate the impacts of the Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic are undertaken collaboratively.
“I have spoken to many organisations individually and collectively. I know that PAHO is also having conversations on our behalf, in relation to a possible vaccine and how we can be on an early list for that. We have been having conversations with CARICOM. There is a lot happening. Together, we can develop a strategy that is National COVID-19 response to protect the Guyanese people,” President Ali said.
The President convened the stakeholder meeting to ensure that the decisions taken will be made only after extensive consultation with stakeholders. This also includes the plan to reopen the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA).
The Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) also issued a number of rigid public health guidelines and regulations to airlines, ground handlers and airport authorities ahead of the reopening of airports. Passengers can be fined from $50,000 to $3M and jailed for five years if they breach the COVID-19 regulations stipulated by the GCAA. The Government of Guyana has assured that strict protocols will be instituted and enforced prior to the reopening of the airport.
Earlier this week, the PAHO/WHO Country Representative noted that he is not opposed to the Government’s plan to reopen airports mid-September, given that the planned systems in place to detect positive COVID-19 cases upon arrival are enforced. Dr. Adu-Krow also said that with the exception of Guyana’s patient zero, the majority of the other COVID-19 cases resulted from community transmission.
The Government of Guyana continues to enforce mask-wearing along with the other preventative measures including handwashing/sanitising and social distancing, which are key to halting the severe impact of the COVID-19.
Minister of Health, Dr Frank Anthony, earlier this week, warned that persons who choose not to wear a mask when in public can be fined. The Minister emphasised that the revised emergency protocols for August 16-31, 2020, provides for persons found flouting the measure to be fine and even imprisoned.
In addition, a curfew is imposed throughout Guyana from August 16 to the August 31, 2020 between the hours of 21:00 hours and 05:00 hours.
A special curfew has also been imposed from 18:00 hours to 06:00 hours for Cuyuni-Mazaruni (Region Seven), Potaro-Siparuni (Region Eight) and Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo (Region Nine).