President establishes task force to address coronavirus
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President David Granger engaging ministers of government on Friday (MoTP photo)
President David Granger engaging ministers of government on Friday (MoTP photo)

-says measures put in place to prevent virus from spreading

WITH Guyana recording its first case of the 2019 coronavirus (COVID-2019), government has taken measures to ensure that the virus does not spread, and one of those recent measures is the establishment of a ministerial task force.

The task force, which was established by President David Granger, is headed by Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo and includes Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence; Minister of Education, Dr. Nicolette Henry; Minister of Communities, Ronald Bulkan; Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan; Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams SC; Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson; Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan and Minister of Citizenship, Winston Felix,

President Granger had convened a meeting of ministers on Friday to better coordinate government’s action plan in response to the presence of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Guyana. President Granger said the briefing is a follow-up to one held on January 28, 2020 by officials of the Ministry of Public Health and the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO) on COVID-19. The team had briefed Cabinet on Guyana’s preparedness to deal with any case of the Novel Coronavirus, which at that time was centred in China.

The team of medical professionals, which included Dr Shamdeo Persaud, Chief Medical Officer; Dr. Karen Boyle-Campbell, Deputy Chief Medical Officer; Ms. Collette Adams, Permanent Secretary, MoPH; Dr. Fawcett Jeffrey, Director of Medical and Professional Services, Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) and Dr. Tracey Bovell, Mass Casualty Specialist at GPHC, as well as Dr. William Adu-Krow, PAHO-WHO’s Country Representative in Guyana, provided an insight to the rise of the Novel Coronavirus.
Guyana confirmed its first imported case of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) on Wednesday, March 11, 2020.

According to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).

The coronavirus outbreak originated in Wuhan, China, and has since spread to many other countries, including some in the Americas. Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, coughs, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.

Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence makes a point during her discussions with other government ministers and President David Granger (MoTP photo)

The President said since then, measures have been put in place to prevent the risk of the virus spreading. President Granger urged all Guyanese to remain calm and to implement all advisories issued by the authorities pertaining to personal hygiene and social distancing.

“Screening remains in place for those persons arriving from high-risk countries. Seven countries – Jamaica, The Dominican Republic, Brazil, French Guiana, Panama, St. Vincent and the United States of America – have been added to the list of eight (People’s Republic of China, Italy, South Korea, Singapore, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia and Iran) that was previously made public,” said President Granger in a statement on Wednesday.

The President also advised against public gatherings and non-essential travel, and encouraged agencies to sensitise key personnel at all air and seaports so that they could be alert.
In the event of a suspected case reaching the shores of Guyana, the Ministry of Public Health has designated three quarantine facilities and will be identifying more, said President Granger. These facilities are expected to be efficient because Guyana already has the capacity to test for COVID-19, thanks to training provided by the Pan American Health Organisation.

Despite the preparatory work, government has started to assess the readiness of health facilities to meet the anticipated increase in demand of services and will continue to fill existing gaps by providing additional supplies and equipment through the public health ministry. As it is now, President Granger said the public health ministry has enough personal protective equipment in the country for health facilities and it also has adequate stores of respiratory medicine for the next three months.

“These efforts are supported by a communications campaign to keep the population updated on the virus and its impacts and oversight provided by the Health Emergency Operations Centre. The National Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) will be activated to provide sector-wide support,” he said.

As a safeguard, the Ministry of Public Health has urged the public to adhere to infection prevention and control measures such as maintaining a distance of at least one metre from persons who are coughing or sneezing; performing hand hygiene frequently by washing hands thoroughly with soap and water or using a hand sanitiser; covering mouths and noses with a tissue when coughing; and avoiding touching your face.

In encouraging the public to practise these measures and staying calm, President Granger said: “I use this opportunity to appeal to the public to remain calm and to implement all the advisories relating to personal hygiene, social distancing and overall infection prevention and control. The Government of Guyana will continue to keep the public informed as we manage this public health challenge.”

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