Special unit to enforce COVID-19 measures
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Director of Operations of the COVID-19 Task Force Secretariat, Mark Archer
Director of Operations of the COVID-19 Task Force Secretariat, Mark Archer

…gov’t concerned about some citizens’ reckless behaviour

THE callous behaviour of some sections of the local population has contributed significantly to the consistent rise in the number of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) cases, but local authorities are creating a special emergency unit to enforce the control measures and curtail the spread of the disease.

Guyana has already recorded some 272 cases of COVID-19 and 14 deaths, and authorities believe this is primarily because sections of the population continue to flout the existing measures, which include a national curfew.

As a result, the National COVID-19 Task Force (NCTF) has instructed the Ministry of Public Security to create a “Mobile Emergency Response and Enforcement Unit,” said Director of Operations of the COVID-19 Task Force Secretariat, Mark Archer, during a virtual press briefing on Saturday. He said the unit will comprise officers of the Guyana Police Force (GPF) and persons from the Ministry of Public Health.

“We cannot depend on the normal beat cop…that is why the task force instructed that the special emergency enforcement team be set up to deal with the problem,” said Archer.
Authorities believe that the unit will be timely because persons are taking the disease for granted and are not obeying the official advisories. This is evidenced by pictures showing persons congregating at the seawall for a “weekend lime.”

“The special unit will not just enforce the advisories, but also go into the new COVID-19 hotspots and arrest the situation…we are hoping that they will bring an end to some of the lawlessness that is going on in mining camps, areas in the hinterland and even areas along the coast,” said Archer.

Earlier this month the national task force had permitted 90 minutes of exercise from Monday to Friday only, in parks, on roads, at the seawall, on beaches and at rivers and creeks as the country slightly relaxed its COVID-19 emergency measures.

Nevertheless, the majority of all the other measures remain and have been extended to July 2, 2020. However, Guyanese across the country are still flouting the national COVID-19 restrictions on social gatherings, along with the rule that persons must wear face masks if they have a need to leave their homes.

Despite a rise in the number of cases across the country, hundreds of Guyanese last Sunday gathered at the Kitty seawall, before and after the 6pm nationwide curfew kicked in. Several videos and photographs viewed by this publication showed that those who gathered at the infamous chill spot were not wearing face masks or practising any other precautionary measures against COVID-19.

Recently, the Ministry of Education re-opened schools for the pupils and students who were scheduled to write the National Grade Six Assessment and the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) in July. One of the primary concerns of parents and teachers following the ministry’s decision was that children would disregard the COVID-19 measures; as such, strict instructions were given to the teachers, students and parents that, after class sessions are dismissed, students and pupils must return to their respective homes.

Additionally, minibuses are Guyana’s primary mode of public transportation, and, as such, the government has mandated that minibus operators carry half the number of passengers that they usually would, as a means to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
However, while there are a few minibus operators who are adhering to the rule, there are still a few who continue to have a nonchalant approach to combatting the virus. In several videos and photos published on social media websites, minibus operators were seen still overloading the buses and carrying three to four passengers in a seat, while they were advised to carry just two passengers per seat as a means of maintaining the 3ft social-distancing rule to slow the spread of the virus. Authorities have been pleading with persons to adhere to the control measures, so that the situation could be arrested before it escalates.

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