COVID deaths pass 1,000 as Guyana braces for Omicron variant
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A health worker sanitizes a public building in April 2020. 

(Adrian Narine/Guyana Chronicle)
A health worker sanitizes a public building in April 2020. (Adrian Narine/Guyana Chronicle)

GUYANA has now passed the 1,000 mark for COVID-19 deaths, according to the daily COVID-19 dashboard published by the Ministry of Health.

The December 3 dashboard said Guyana now has 1,001 deaths from COVID-19. Taking the death toll to 1,001 are three men, all senior citizens. Two of them, 65 and 70, are fully vaccinated from Region 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice). The other male, 59, is unvaccinated from Region 2 (Pomeroon-Supenaam).

The deadly COVID-19 pandemic was first discovered in Guyana in April 2020. Since then, there was an arduous election process that affected the responsiveness of Guyana’s public health system against the threat of the virus.

It was only after the change of government in August 2020 and the assumption of the Dr Irfaan Ali-led government that a more holistic approach to managing the pandemic was undertaken.

That approach eventually culminated in the recent action by the President to allow the legally-mandated Central Board of Health (CBH), headed by the Chief Medical Officer, to make national COVID-19 emergency measures.

During his daily COVID-19 press briefing earlier Friday, Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony said there are 1,177 active COVID-19 cases with 519 persons in Region 4 (Demerara-Mahaica) alone.

Overall, Guyana has thus far recorded 36,068 from 394,277 tests.

Region 6 (East Berbice-Corentyne) comes in second behind Region 4 for administrative regions of specific concern to public health officials not only because of COVID-19 cases but also because vaccination in this region has been less than favourable.

The Health Minister raised this concern in previous daily updates but reminded on Friday that Region 6 has 248 active COVID-19 cases.

Region 3 (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara) has seen a decline in COVID-19 cases, according to Dr Anthony, with 207 active COVID-19 cases at present.

So far, there are 64 hospitalized with COVID-19, according to figures provided by Dr Anthony. A large number of these hospitalized persons are pregnant women.

With the Omicron variant spiking in the global north, it is expected that global south countries like Guyana would be affected at some point.

Dr Anthony believes there could be a risk of immunity evasion. The theory, he said, is now being tested as no country can confirm this yet.

He is confident, however, that the Omicron variant could be more easily passed on between hosts.

The Health Minister urged persons to ensure they are in well-ventilated areas considering how easily the virus lingers and spreads.

He said: “It’s not only by droplets but this virus spreads by aerosols which means particles still remain suspended in the air you’re breathing for a much longer time.

“So somebody could have been there that got the virus, sneeze or something, and that remains suspended in the air”.

736,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered thus far in Guyana, Dr Anthony noted. More than 2,000 booster shots have, thus far, been administered since the government recently opened the door for persons to access booster shots to complement their initial vaccines.

During a recent press conference of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), the organisation’s head, Dr Carissa Etienne said even though COVID-19 cases have dropped significantly throughout the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region, transmission remains high. “Every time we lower our guard, the virus gains momentum,” she told a virtual press conference on November 24.

Turning her attention to what is happening in Europe, Dr Etienne said: “Europe has been a window into the future for the Americas. Time and again, we have seen how the infection dynamics in Europe are mirrored here several weeks later. And over the last weeks, many European countries have reported record numbers of cases.”

The PAHO Director attributed the spike in cases to low vaccination rates, including in eastern Europe.

“We have been here before. Our region witnessed a large jump in new cases following last year’s holiday season. And it took months for countries to reduce the incidents of new cases,” Dr Etienne lamented.

She said we now have more tools to protect ourselves from the virus as she urged persons to get vaccinated and to observe COVID-19 emergency measures including wearing masks and avoiding large gatherings.

“These vaccines have helped to lower the hospital bed occupancy,” the PAHO Director added further.

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