‘Region Six on high alert’

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Director of Health Services, Region Six, Jevaughn Stephens

…as Suriname records surge in COVID-19 cases

SURINAME has become the latest South American country to record a surge in cases of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), and while this poses a threat to Surinamese, the risks of this surge does not evade Guyana, as formal and informal travel to Suriname is a norm for Guyanese and vice versa.

The Dutch-speaking nation, which is also Guyana’s neighbour to the East, has recorded 74 cases of the disease, inclusive of one death, in a short space of time.

“Our neighbour Suriname has recorded new cases after they would have managed to contain this disease. It therefore means that we are, once again, in a vulnerable position of receiving imported cases, if persons continue to cross, and if the necessary precautions are not taken,” said Deputy Chief Medical Officer (DCMO), Dr. Karen Boyle, during a virtual COVID-19 update, on Wednesday.

Guyana has already recorded 153 cases of COVID-19 and 12 deaths, but if the border is not carefully monitored, those figures could easily climb.

Region Six has so far managed to stay COVID-19 free for two months, after recording one case in March, 2020.

Director of Regional Health Services, Region Six, Jevaughn Stephens, said the region had lost its one COVID-19 patient to the disease, but, since then, there has been no new case.
“This is due to the good work of the frontline workers…they are working beyond the call of duty to ensure that East Berbice remains safe… we have a number of programmes, such as screening at all health facilities in the region, which aids in the containment and detection of the disease,” said Stephens during a virtual update, on Tuesday.

He said screening is being conducted at 30 health centres and at all major health facilities in the region. Permanent screening and sample taking facilities have also been established at some of those health facilities.

A screening point was also established at the Berbice Bridge, which serves as the main entrance to Region Six. Some 1,700-2,500 persons enter Berbice on a daily basis, but Stephens assured that there are systems to screen every person and to provide secondary screening if necessary. Screening is conducted at the bridge from 06:00hrs to 18:00hrs, as much attention would not be needed after 18:00hrs because of the curfew, which was instituted by the government.

“Our methods have been very effective so far and we plan on keeping them up for as long as it remains necessary,” said Stephens.

National containment efforts have also been numerous, and, just recently, the Emergency Measures, previously set to expire on Wednesday, were extended to June 17, 2020.
In a press release on Tuesday, the National COVID-19 Task Force (NCTF) stated that the extension applies to the COVID-19 Emergency Measures (No.3) published in the Gazette on April 29, 2020. The Order which will notify on these changes is being prepared for gazetting under the hand of Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence.

The Emergency Measures state that unless a citizen is conducting or visiting an essential service between the hours of 06:00 hours and 18:00 hours, he/she is to stay within the enclosure of his/her home and yard. A number of social activities have also been prohibited.

The Measures also speak sternly to specific working hours allotted to essential services, preferential treatment for healthcare workers, social and physical distancing protocols, religious worship and domestic and international travel.

Anyone who fails to comply with these measures commits an offence under Section 152 of the Public Health Ordinance and is liable on summary conviction to the penalty provided under that Section.

Meanwhile, the preamble to the list of measures have made it clear that it could be terminated, extended or amended by notice of the Minister of Public Health, after an assessment of the conditions.

Chairman of the NCTF, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, had stated that the NCTF is aware that the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that lifting lockdown restrictions too quickly could lead to negative consequences.