COVID-19 poses threat to tourism sector, as country records four cases
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–‘It has the potential to cripple tourism in Guyana’, says THAG president

WITH the number of confirmed cases of the dreaded Coronavirus in Guyana pegged at four, there is fear in some quarters that several sectors will suffer a blow from the growing pandemic, specifically the tourism sector.

Speaking with the Guyana Chronicle, President of the Tourism and Hospitality Association of Guyana (THAG) Mitra Ramkumar said the disease will most likely cripple the tourism sector in Guyana.

While all ports of entry remain open, the Ministry of Public Health has said that it is aiming to significantly ramp up its COVID-19 response efforts.

“The virus has the potential of crippling the industry; it is very close to us… And if you’re looking at what is happening in Suriname, they have closed off all entry ports; you have a closure of flights… If we are forced to do that in Guyana, tourism will actually shut down,” Ramkumar stated.

He said that tourism operators are well aware of the pandemic, and are equipped to handle the situation. “I know that all of the operators, which include the hotels, the resorts, beaches, tour operators, everybody has upped their sanitation standards… We have been advising all members to ensure that they take the necessary precautions, and also that their staff are well aware of the precautionary measures,” he said.
Ramkumar also noted that the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA) has been following the guidelines of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), along with that of the Tourism Health Programme and the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO).

In a press release following the first confirmed case of the virus here in Guyana, the GTA advised all travellers, locals and tourism stakeholders to take the necessary precautions as the country prepares to combat the dreaded virus.
The statement read: “The GTA advises all travellers, locals and tourism stakeholders to remain alert, and take the necessary precautions to help combat the coronavirus.

This is uncharted territory for most of us, and the situation is changing daily.”
The GTA also urged all local lodges, hotels and airlines to be flexible with both travellers and tour operators.

THAG President Mitra Ramkumar

“We strongly encourage you to be more lenient with your cancellation policies and temporarily modify them as necessary to accommodate changing travel plans,” the Authority said, adding: “The GTA also advises postponing when feasible. If your guests and clients want to cancel completely, be flexible and allow them the opportunity to postpone their departure.” To those wanting to travel, GTA urged that they keep abreast of the situation, and make the necessary adjustments to their travel plans.

The first case of the virus, which was confirmed on Wednesday, was that of a 52-year-old woman who recently came home with family members from the United States.
It was noted that based on the patient’s travel history and symptoms (out-of-hand diabetes and high blood pressure), health professionals also tested her for COVID-19.

A sample was collected and sent to the National Public Health Reference Laboratory (NPHRL), where laboratory tests confirmed a positive result on Wednesday morning.
The woman died last Wednesday while receiving medical attention at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC), and her family members were informed.

It was noted, too, that other family members and more than a dozen others who came into contact with the female patient were advised by Ministry of Public Health’s specialists to self-quarantine. They are all under regular surveillance by public health specialists, the authorities said.

Tests on the other household members over the last two days have revealed that three had contracted the virus, which was discovered last year in Wuhan, China.
The MoPH would like to remind members of the public that should anyone develop a high fever, a persistent cough or have difficulty breathing to immediately call the COVID-19 hotline:
227-4986 ext. 215 (from 8am – 4:30pm;
624 -6674; 624 – 2819 (from 4:30pm to 8am).
It is also advisable to share previous travel history accurately with a healthcare provider. The Health Emergency Operating Centre (HEOC) was this week activated by the Public Health Ministry as part of a broader menu of measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

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