Region 9 REO seeks rigorous army presence at border after COVID-19 case confirmed in Bonfim

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By Isanella Patoir

A confirmed case of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in neighbouring Bonfim, Brazil has raised fears in Lethem, Region Nine prompting officials there to write the Army Chief of Staff, Brigadier Patrick West to have GDF ranks in Lethem engage in a more rigorous approach to safeguard the border with Brazil.

Regional Executive Officer (REO), Carl Parker told the News Room that the Region Nine committee has made recommendations to the National COVID-19 Task Force (NCTF) to ensure the safety of the residents.

The positive case is a man who is under isolation in Brazil while his father, who operates a butchery in the Lethem market, is under quarantine, also in Brazil.

After the confirmed case was revealed, Parker said measures were taken to have the border between Guyana and Brazil close immediately for a two-week period.

“We have a very large border with Brazil, a basically open border and there are several unofficial crossing points and we said we would ask the Chief of Staff to have soldiers patrol those borders,” Parker told the News Room.

He noted that on Thursday, persons were found trying to swim across the Takutu River to get to Guyana from Brazil.

A section of Lethem, Region Nine [Photo: News Room]
“Brazil is just next door to us and since it was that close we decide it was necessary for us to take immediate measures to protect ourselves,” Parker said.

The Region Nine committee has recommended that cargo vessels coming from Brazil should only be allowed to pass once a week on Thursdays, all businesses should be closed at 18:00hrs and residents should be in their homes by 18:00hrs.

Parker said they are also looking to have an entry point into the region monitored.

“We ask that the Kurupukari crossing to be restricted of all vehicles except cargo trucks, military and police vehicles, government vehicles and if private vehicle were allowed they must have no more than two persons.”

It was noted that these measures would not only affect residents in Region Nine but also Regions Ten, Eight and Four.

Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence during her COVID-19 brief on Thursday made it clear that there are no confirmed cases in Region Nine.

“This is not a case for Guyana. The individual in question did not visit Guyana for the last two weeks prior to his confirmed status or after it was discovered,” the Minister said.

Health Officials in the region nevertheless, have begun contact tracing.

The REO also highlighted that a family in the region said they recently received a package from the home of the person who tested positive.

The REO said the Rapid Response Team in Lethem immediately assisted the family, interviewed, screened and tested them; the results were negative.

Parker applauded residents in Lethem for taking the precautionary measures during this time.

He said residents are staying at home and adhering to the advisories.

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