A three-pronged response to manage the COVID-19 pandemic
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Dear Editor,

THERE seems to be a new and welcomed wave in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the country. Government and particularly, the Ministry of Health has indicated its intention to approach the management of the pandemic in a more systematic, direct and technical manner.
The management of a pandemic, particularly in a developing country with a labour intensive economy such as Guyana, should take into account the delicate balance of social protection, public health and economic activity. These socio-economic aspects are not mutually exclusive in this unprecedented global crisis. Similarly, political involvement is not reserved in the approach and it is critical that the effects are positive and far reaching.

It requires adept leadership to carefully manage and bring relief to the country which has already been burdened. The new response must encompass the appropriate public policy, adequate enforcement, availability of medical and technical expertise, equitable dispensation and mobilisation of resources, and cross-sectoral, institutional and civil cooperation.

Any public health policy must take into account the social and economic fallout that may occur as a result of the exclusion of mitigating measures for same.  It is my hope that with the enhanced procurement of medical supplies and equipment that the government has undertaken, this will see the exponential access to testing and front line response in an effort to effectively tackle community transmission. Other technical processes such as treatment procedures and management of active cases including isolation facilities management have to be sensibly re-examined. The models of some of the successful countries such as Barbados and New Zealand have demonstrated how appropriate public policy can be employed in a deferential way to bring relief to our people.
While it is vitally important to ensure the safety and health of our citizens, their social and economic wellbeing must be taken into account. The debilitating effects that the country have been exposed to must be taken in earnest for a new road to recovery and building resilience. The re-opening of the economy must continue and private sector employees must be given the chance to work and earn once again. The engine of growth must shift from neutral to drive, we must be given the right to once again put food on the table.

At this time, the news of the sourcing of four billion dollar funding is most welcomed.   Appropriate spending measures should target improved social assistance to vulnerable groups, introduction of innovative fiscal tools and measures, support for hard hit sectors and fostering ICT opportunities in public service delivery. Some specific measures should include food and ration stamps, utility rebate, rescheduling of loans, drugs and medical supplies provisions, enhancement in infrastructure for online schooling and teleworking, small business support for continuity and creative development and improvement in essential services.
It is prudent that there is equitable distribution of resources in a period when the country is affected by socio-economic disruption due to the pandemic. Programs and policies must identify and be in alignment with country needs and be tailored to strengthen inclusiveness in the recovery.
While it is critical to pursue normalcy it must be done with caution and to avoid complacency. This pandemic is here to stay for the short and medium term, our way of life and doing business must adapt and we must become creative in finding ways and means of dealing with the new normal.

With best regards,
Recovered COVID-19 patient

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