Chief of Santa Rosa welcomes stricter measures as COVID-19 cases climb

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By Bibi Khatoon

The Chief of Santa Rosa village, inhabited by the Arawak and Warrau indigenous peoples, in Region One has welcomed the emergency measures approved by the National COVID-19 Task Force (NCTF).

“I think it’s a very good idea because people are not adhering to the rules,” Waunita Phillips said in an interview with the News Room on Tuesday. She serves as the Toshao of the village.

The village on Monday recorded 18 new cases of the disease of which 11 are teachers, one a doctor and six other health workers.

This brings the total number of persons tested so far in the Moruca sub-region to 42. Santa Rosa is the central point of Moruca. The cases include a boat captain and his family who operates weekly trips from Moruca to the Charity Market.

Previously, the Ministry of Education revealed that 11 teachers from Santa Rosa were tested positive for the disease. With 22 teachers now diagnosed, students preparing to write the National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA) and the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations were not able to return to school last week.

The Task Force on Monday evening held an emergency meeting and agreed that stricter measures will be implemented in parts of Regions One and Seven.

This includes enhanced containment measures within the affected areas in these regions which will include cease work orders for specific areas in the mining sector. There will also be screening, wider testing and checkpoints in various areas.

Toshao Waunita Phillips

Phillips told the News Room that some persons are in denial that the disease exists and are encouraging others to flout the COVID-19 guidelines.

“There are some people who are still saying there is nothing like coronavirus and there are some people who are instilling this in the people that there is no COVID-19 and people you know they have a tendency to believe. As the Toshao of this village, I try to tell people you know this is a serious thing, coronavirus is real and we need to adhere by the rules, wear a mask, wash your hands and you know sanitize,” she explained.

She noted that some bars remain open and persons are going to those facilities.

The Santa Rosa village council had previously decided to institute a fine of $16,000 for breaking the COVID-19 rules, however, no one has been charged since the order was never gazetted, according to the Toshao.

In this regard, the council will resort to working with the Police to get residents to adhere to the guidelines but more officers will be needed.

“Santa Rosa is a large village so when you check one side, same thing happening on the other side. We really need a lot of help to control the people…to keep people at home we will have to get help, we will have to get food also for some of these people as majority as not in jobs,” Phillips explained.

Santa Rosa is the most populated indigenous village in Guyana.

The village confirmed its first case posthumously–59-year-old Vincent Torres –on May 25. The News Room understands that Torres owned a shop. Some of his relatives and also patrons of the shop were later tested positive.

The village leader believes that the Region was not prepared for such a large number of cases.

“We were not prepared for this pandemic and I don’t think they would have enough space. Whatever space we get now, we will have to maybe do a makeshift hospital or something. We have to do something,” Phillips explained.

She noted that isolation facilities were set up at the Amerindian Hostel, the Regional Education Officer’s residence and the Acquero Guesthouse. The Hostel is being used as a last resort since it is located in the middle of the village.

“There are so many things that this village needs right now,” the Toshao added.

She said there is a need for more Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for frontline workers and food items for persons if the cargo boats are restricted from leaving Moruca.

She is pleading with residents to practice physical distancing and to ignore persons who are saying there is no COVID-19.

Guyana as of June 22 confirmed 205 cases of the COVID-19.

There have so far been 12 deaths and 103 recoveries.

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