— Minister Benn hints at consequences for creating public mischief
RESIDENTS throughout Guyana have shunned a call from elements of the opposition for a shutdown of the country for business. On Monday, all businesses and government offices in the various regions were in full operation.
At the various markets throughout Guyana, vendors were busy hawking their goods as a steady stream of customers made their daily purchases and went about their business.
Outside the market, the roads were busy as vehicles, notably a large number of minibus operators, plied their trade while private hire car drivers solicited passengers at every opportunity available to them.
Aside from public transportation operators, business operators and customers at the various markets, persons were seen offloading goods from trucks and transporting them to stores on the busy roads and pavements of Georgetown and other towns in the regions.
Some of the shop owners and customers approached by this newspaper for a comment politely declined, but others who spoke on the condition of anonymity say that they have ‘mouths to feed’ and their families to look after and therefore have no time to give attention to petty politics.
In relation to the shutdown call, one person, Eshwar Aziz, commented on the Chronicle facebook page: “Most of these vendors depend on a daily sale when they day is up. When these people go on lockdown who will provide from [sic] them?” pointing out that most of the people who are calling for the lockdown are either well off or have fixed incomes.
Despite calls from “mischievous persons” for a countrywide lockdown, Guyanese from all walks of life went about their daily business on Monday. In these photos, we see that the market places in New Amsterdam, Berbice, and Georgetown were abuzz with the usual activities
Another person who commented compared the lockdown call to “making a sacrifice.”
On Monday, contrary to claims being peddled on social media, Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn confirmed that the government has not issued any lockdown orders for the country.
“There is no shutdown that the government has mandated, and those who are calling for a shutdown are irresponsible,” Minister Benn said during an appearance on the Guyana Today programme aired on the National Communications Network.
The minister said pointedly that instead of harmful lockdowns, the government has been pushing vaccinations and other health protocols as a means of safely exiting the ongoing pandemic.
“The COVID-19 guidelines and the period over which people should not be out and about are well-known… 10:30 in the evenings to 4 ‘o’ clock in the morning. It gives us enough time to make life go on in a reasonable way, in a sustainable way,” Benn noted.
He cautioned Guyanese against falling prey to the misinformation and anti-vaccination messages being peddled largely by persons who are already fully vaccinated.
“In spite of the best efforts of Dr. Frank Anthony, the Ministry of Health and the wider government, there is [sic] some out here, who, for whatever reason, are suggesting or are trying to create a movement to delay our return to a situation where we are safe and secure from a health perspective,” Benn recognised.
Notwithstanding the negativity being peddled by some sections of society, Benn said that it is important for Guyana to achieve herd immunity in a hurry so as to prevent any uncontrolled mutations of the virus, which could possibly nullify the efficacy of the vaccines that are currently in use worldwide.
The coronavirus has so far taken millions of lives globally, and close to 700 locally. As it is, vaccines have been hailed as the only safe way out of the pandemic, and reports have shown that the majority of persons who lost their lives to the virus were unvaccinated.
“What is important now is that people are vaccinated and that we reject the negative messages… we have to encourage our people to take the vaccine,” Benn emphasised.
Because the peddling of misinformation relating to a “countrywide shutdown” could be seen as a form of public mischief, Benn said that the cybercrimes unit of the Guyana Police Force would have to be called in to conduct an investigation.
Benn also encouraged Guyanese to “stick to the rules” and continue adhering to the existing COVID-19 guidelines.
The Guyana Police Force has also issued a statement informing the general public that there is no total lockdown in effect. “However, the curfew imposed throughout the country as part of the COVID-19 Emergency Measures issued by the Minister of Health, remains in effect between 22:30hrs and 04:00hrs daily,” the police said.
The statement reminded citizens that during the aforementioned period, persons are required to remain within the confines of their homes and yard spaces, except as otherwise provided for in the COVID-19 Emergency Measures.
“The COVID-19 Emergency Measures have also placed restrictions and requirements on social, business and other activities with the aim of ensuring social distancing and the wearing of face masks by members of the public,” the police said.
The force also warned that as the police continue with their enforcement of the COVID-19 measures, those found to be in breach “will be prosecuted accordingly.”
Also accompanying Minister Benn on the televised programme was Police Commissioner (ag), Nigel Hoppie, who assured the public that the force will continue to execute its functions, as stipulated. “Our mandate is to ensure safety and security… we stand ready to ensure that law and order prevails in our society,” the Top Cop asserted.
Nonetheless, much like the call for teachers to strike, just hours after they returned to their physical classrooms, following a 17-month hiatus, the “mischievous” and “irresponsible” call for a countrywide lockdown also fell on deaf ears.
Just as the majority of teachers boycotted the strike and returned to their classrooms, the majority of Guyanese were also out in their numbers. Business was abuzz across the country, including New Amsterdam and in the capital city of Georgetown.