Guyana should consider ‘complete lock-down’ to deal with Coronavirus – PAHO/WHO

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By Bibi Khatoon

With most Guyanese not adhering to calls for social distancing and self-isolation, resident representative of the Pan-American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO) in Guyana Dr William Adu-Krow believes local authorities should consider a complete lock down as he noted that the country does not have the capacity to deal with an outbreak.

“That is a quantum leap but from the way things are going, I think we are getting there. I think we should seriously consider a lockdown…if we don’t do complete lockdown at some point, I think we will be in deep trouble,” Dr Adu-Krow told the News Room during an interview at his Brickdam, Georgetown office on Monday.

He referred to the lockdown in China where the disease originated, which resulted in a reduction to zero new cases.

Guyana has suspended all outgoing international flights, locked down the other ports of entry, extended the closure of schools to mid-April, discontinued social activities and reduced the business hours at all banks while public servants are working a shift system.

The PAHO/WHO resident representative said Guyana’s local healthcare system is not equipped to deal with an outbreak and persons should take the disease seriously.

“At some point in time there was a model done which says that by the time the disease is over, a country like ours [population size] will have 1,400 cases…now 10% of them will be critical, 20% are likely to be serious, that means we are looking at about 450 people in hospitals –some of them will need respirators, some of them may need other things that may not be there.

“We do not have that much respirators and life support systems to be used if it came to that…” Dr Adu-Krow noted.

The WHO two days ago donated 700 Diagnostic Screening Tests Kits and 400 Diagnostic Confirmatory Tests Kits along with surgical masks, surgical gowns, gloves, safety glasses and biosafety bags.

Tests for the disease are done at the National Public Health Reference Laboratory in Guyana and the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) laboratory in Trinidad and Tobago.

However, tests are done on a priority basis which covers cases where there are symptoms.

Social distancing

At the weekend, large crowds gathered outside the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Kingston, Georgetown office, where representatives of political parties and Police officers are guarding containers with ballots boxes. There were also persons at various bars around the city and the markets.

“If we don’t take care, we will be enjoying ourselves but at the end of it, we will start counting bodies and that is not what we want…” Dr Adu-Krow noted.

“Politics or no politics we have to take it seriously because this is health,” he added.

Dr Adu-Krow called on persons to take the disease seriously and to protect themselves. The health professional said while there are some younger persons who may feel they are invincible, they must think of older persons who they may be unknowingly passing the disease onto.

The COVID-19 takes approximately 14 days to show any symptoms, therefore, persons may be carriers without the slightest clue.

Aside from the health aspect, Dr Adu-Krow noted that the strain on the economy also needs to be examined. He said systems need to be put in place for persons losing their jobs due to a decrease in business and the closure of public agencies.

“I think we need to have all sectors approached…what is our approach to such persons or to employers to keep those persons like tax-free waivers because this can go on for months.”

According to the WHO, the disease which originated in China in December 2019 has spread to 189 countries. COVID-19 is responsible for 14,510 deaths while there are 332,935 confirmed cases worldwide.

Guyana has confirmed five cases with one death. The other four persons –all linked to the first case imported from the United States of America – are isolated at a medical institution where they are being monitored.

It has been found that even those persons are in denial due to the stigma attached to the disease but Dr Adu-Krow said this is normal as it is similar to cases at the start of the HIV/AIDS and other pandemics.

The WHO representative lauded the moves made by Barbados to fully equip its isolation rooms with small surgical theatres and x-ray machines among other equipment needed.

The WHO has stated that the disease may take several months to vanish.

The WHO has established a WhatsApp hotline with the number: +41 79 412 32 36 where you can be able to have all of your questions answered relating to the new Coronavirus.

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