The Irfaan Ali-led Administration adjusting the anti-COVID-19 curfew has raised some eyebrows since the announcement yesterday, but senior government officials maintain it was necessary. According to the Prime Minister (PM) and Head of the National COVID-19 Task Force, Brigadier (Retired) Mark Phillips, it was all about “striking a balance”.
He explained that while the number of cases in Guyana has risen significantly within the last couple of weeks, one must also be cognizant of the ongoing interruption to livelihoods across the nation.
“The reality is: we cannot keep the people hemmed in and not allow people to conduct their business…We have to find the right balance…A lot of people would have lost their jobs…We still have to eat, the farmer still has to farm, the fisherman still has to bring in the fish,” he said.
He added that for persons to be able to preserve their livelihoods and sustain their families, adjusting the curfew from 6am to 6pm, to 4am to 9pm, was a move in the right direction. The PM emphasised, however, the need for more education and enforcement. To that end, he noted that programmes will be implemented in the coming days to ensure that while people are given more freedom, they must also be responsible.
Health Minister, Dr Frank Anthony, who was also present at the briefing, was asked about whether it was a good idea to adjust the curfew, and if the alteration was done based on scientific evidence. In his response, he said the epidemiological situation and the impact of livelihoods were contrasted and examined before the modification to the curfew was made.
He spoke about a recently completed United Nations (UN)’s assessment called “Caribbean COVID-19 Food Security and Livelihoods Impact Survey”, which provided guidance to the Task Force.
“Among the things that came out in that survey, is that six out 10 respondents would have experienced job loss or decline in salaries in their households. Some of those who were interviewed, when we look at disruptions to livelihoods, they said that disruptions to livelihoods were very widespread. Every two in three respondents reported that their ability to carry out their livelihoods were impacted mainly out of concerns of leaving home; movement restrictions and so forth…You had things like the ability to get food,” he explained.
The minister further stated that five percent of the persons interviewed, said that they had not eaten for the day. Also, 29 percent of the respondents of that survey, reported that they would often skip meals and eat less than they normally would just to ration their food supplies.
Guyana reported its 89th COVID-19 related death moments ago.