COVID-19 | Lethem businesses urged to close early

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A view of the town of Lethem. In foreground is the Takutu Bridge which links the town with Brazil.

…as Regional Committee formed to tackle spread of Coronavirus

…Kurupukari Crossing may close to all passenger traffic this week 

As the authorities intensify efforts to curtail the spread of COVID-19, a regional committee has been formed to tackle the pandemic in the Rupununi and among its recommendations is an appeal to the business community to close their doors at nightfall.

In addition, following a meeting between the Rupununi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI), the Regional Democratic Council (RDC) and other stakeholders, a decision has been taken to temporarily close the Kurupukari Crossing on the Essequibo River, which links the Rupununi region to the Coastland, to all passenger traffic.This move is being disputed by one bus service which noted that it will be operating its normal service.

According to a notice published by an official on the committee, as part of its recommendations, only cargo trucks, government vehicles, security forces vehicles and private vehicles with no more than 2 persons will be allowed to use the pontoon at the crossing. It was noted that the private  bus services which ply the Lethem/Georgetown route have already been informed while officials manning the crossing were also notified of the move.

A recommendation has been made by the RCCI  for businesses to close their doors at 19:00hrs and as such the committee has issued an appeal in writing to the business sector in the border town.

“This is an appeal to all business owners and managers. Because of the limited capacity of our local health care systems and the vulnerability of Lethem and the Rupununi Region, with regards to the great possibility of residents contracting the CoronaVirus, the RCCI is appealing to businesses through the Region to use your discretion with regards to your operating hours and close your business by nightfall,” the RCCI said in its appeal to the business community at Lethem.

Last week, the Brazilian authorities enforced a gazetted order to close the border crossing linking Guyana with the neighbouring country. As part of the arrangement, a decision was made to set aside Thursday for the crossing of resupply trucks into Lethem. Only the driver will be permitted to enter Guyana while porters will discharge goods at Lethem.

Persons in the town noted that there are Guyanese and Brazilians who work on both sides of the border and they have made an appeal to the authorities to put measures in place to ensure that they can travel to and from work.

It was noted by the committee on Wednesday that there are persons who are utilising  unofficial crossings and an appeal was made for those to be safeguarded since residents and Brazilians are still using these routes.

Some residents told the Guyana Chronicle that while they understand the magnitude of the situation, the measures put in place, mainly the closure of the border, has already impacted some households.

On Wednesday a decision was also made to close the roadway linking the area with  Yarong Paru in the South Pakaraimas. It was noted by the regional committee that only cargo trucks with a driver and two porters will be allowed through the roadway .
In the days ahead, all public buildings in the region will be fumigated while the RDC has scaled down its staffing and as such, some employees have been asked to remain at home.

Earlier this week, a 37-year-old Brazilian man, whose father operates a butchery at the Lethem market, tested positive for COVID-19 in the neighbouring country. Reports are that the man, who frequents Lethem, was in contact with infected persons at Boa Vista who were also tested positive for the virus.

Residents of Lethem immediately called on the authorities in the region to implement measures to mitigate the spread of the virus as some noted that the area is at high-risk given its proximity to BonFim across the border.

Brazil’s coronavirus numbers have climbed rapidly to 2,443 recorded cases from less than 300 last Friday.To date 57 deaths have been listed and according to reports in the Brazilian media, a high concentration of the cases have been recorded in the city of Sao Paulo.