Guyana suspends travel from Brazil for 30 days
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The Takutu Bridge linking Guyana and Brazil
The Takutu Bridge linking Guyana and Brazil

AS a precautionary measure to prevent the possible importation of the new variant of the COVID-19 virus discovered in Brazil, the Government of Guyana has suspended air and land travel from that country for the next 30 days.

Earlier this month, health authorities were alerted to the new COVID-19 variant, or strain, discovered in Brazil. Since then, local authorities have tried to limit travel between the two countries.

The land border between the two countries, the Takutu Bridge, has been closed since March, 2020. Limited travel is allowed on Thursdays where goods are brought to Guyana or taken across to Brazil, and this is reportedly supervised by the authority of both countries.

Travel between the two countries has, nevertheless, presented some issues since it is an expansive border that is difficult to patrol. To address the illegal crossing that may occur, Health Minister, Dr. Frank Anthony, said that there have been increased patrols from the joint services in both countries.

On Thursday morning, however, this newspaper was informed that the decision was made to restrict air travel, as well. The commute via air between the two counties is usually from Boa Vista, in Brazil, to the Eugene F. Correia International Airport, at Ogle on the East Coast of Demerara (ECD), or vice versa.

“Taking immediate effect, as of today (Thursday) it is official that the government is restricting all travel from Brazil by air and land,” Director of the National COVID-19 Task Force (NCTF), Colonel Nazrul Hussain subsequently confirmed with the Guyana Chronicle.

He emphasised that this is a precautionary measure, given the exacerbated COVID-19 situation in Brazil. The Guyana Chronicle understands that the local authorities will, however, allow the continued importation of essential supplies from Brazil.

In a recent interview with the Guyana Chronicle, Regional Chairman of Region Nine, Brian Allicock, highlighted the fears of the region, given its close proximity to Brazil and the illegal crossings occurring.

What is concerning too, Allicock related, is that it has been observed that many of the persons coming from Brazil are seeking medical attention. It would appear as though the persons seeking medical attention are Guyanese who were living in Brazil.

It was reported that the Brazilian city of Manaus has been running out of oxygen needed by patients, as there has been a surge in COVID-19. Experts have said that this outbreak has been exacerbated by the emergence of the Brazil variant. Allicock related that few persons from as far as Manaus seem to be making their way to the Lethem Regional Hospital for treatment.

Minister Anthony said also that the health authorities in Region Nine have been on the lookout for any changes in the epidemiological pattern of the virus, which could potentially indicate that the strain has been imported. The Regional Chairman, on the other hand, said that the authorities in the region may have to consider a ‘lockdown’ to protect residents from becoming infected with the virus and its new strain.

“We don’t have too much capacity to deal with COVID-19 or the new strain…we’re hoping that we don’t get that type of disease over here that requires that oxygen and so,” Allicock said.

The Brazil variant is the newest variant of COVID-19 discovered; other variants were discovered in the United Kingdom and South Africa, following a type of genetic analysis known as genomic sequencing.

The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) has emphasised that Caribbean countries are at a “very high” risk of importing the three known variants even with travel protocols and requirements in place. The UK has banned travel from a number of countries, including all of South America, to reduce the possibility of importing the Brazil strain.

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