–possibility of reopening for vaccinated persons to be discussed
AUTHORITIES in Guyana and Brazil have committed to examining the possibility of reopening the border at Lethem and Bonfim to fully vaccinated persons, as suggested by Dr. Frank Anthony, Guyana’s Health Minister who is also performing the duties of Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
Dr. Anthony led a delegation to meet with Antonio Oliverio García de Almeida, Governor of the State of Roraima in Boa Vista, Brazil. According to a press statement issued by Guyana’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, Friday’s engagement, initiated by Dr. Anthony and his team, was aimed at addressing the protests and blockade on the Brazil side of the border “by certain members of the Lethem and Bonfim communities”.
The statement indicated that during the meeting, Minister Anthony said he understands the position of the members of both communities, who have been advocating for a full reopening of the border to allow for the movement of commerce and people.
Notwithstanding the challenges, Minister Anthony pointed to the fact that the arrangement put in place to restrict the movement of goods to one day per week worked satisfactorily over the past year, and as such the border will remain closed until further notice.
He noted that although it was Guyana’s desire to have the border between the two countries opened as quickly as possible, this had to be done safely, given the continuing rise in COVID-19 cases here, and the threat of the spread of the Delta variant across the communities.
“This situation was compounded by the unfortunate position being taken by some persons in Guyana not to be vaccinated,” Dr. Anthony conceded. The Health Minister said that ensuring the safety of citizens remain a priority.
Also accompanying Minister Anthony to Boa Vista was Dr. Ashni Singh, Senior Minister in the Office of the President with responsibility for Finance, who underscored the “special relationship” that exists between Guyana and Brazil.
To further strengthen that relationship, Minister Singh pointed to the avenues for solidifying commercial ties. He made specific reference to partnering to finalise the Lethem-Linden Road link, and exploring enhanced cooperation in the areas of energy, agriculture, health and tourism.
Added to that, Dr. Singh also offered to facilitate a meeting between the private sector of Guyana and that of the State of Roraima as a means of exploring business opportunities by both sides at an appropriate time.
Minister Singh reiterated the strong commitment of the Government of Guyana in relation to overcoming the short-term challenges posed by COVID-19, and the pursuit of closer collaboration with the Government of Brazil to secure the best interests of the people of both countries.
“It was agreed that early discussions would be held with counterparts of the various sectors, as well as to convene a meeting to review the full implementation of the International Road Transport Agreement for Passengers and Goods, and a meeting of the Frontier Committee responsible for monitoring the development and integration of the two border communities,” the press release noted.
It also said, pointedly, that the Government of Guyana “will not put citizens of any country at risk during this pandemic and, as a result, will continue to enforce measures in keeping with national and international protocols. The Government further encourages all citizens and the private sector to support these initiatives.”
The border to Brazil has been closed for more than a year. As it is, Brazil has one of the highest COVID-19 death rates in the world, with 21.1 million cases and 590,000 deaths.
Guyana’s delegation that journeyed to Boa Vista also comprised senior officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the National Covid-19 Task Force.