21 Indigenous villages on lockdown to stop spread of COVID-19
The South Rupununi District Council (SRDC) in Region Nine has taken a decision to lockdown 21 indigenous villages in the district to stop the spread of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).
In a statement on Saturday, the SRDC said the lockdown took effect from last Wednesday as a result of five positive cases in three of the indigenous villages
The Council also decided on the drastic measure because of the Government’s refusal to suspend mining in the district.
“Indeed, our efforts have been stymied by the Government’s continued refusal to remove mining from its list of essential services and by its interventions on behalf of miners which have allowed them to continue to traverse our territory, threatening and challenging our gatekeepers,” the District Council complained.
As a result, the SRDC said it has entered into the period of lockdown and made arrangements with Village Councils to have systems in place to facilitate the delivery of food and other essential items to all communities and attempted to facilitate essential travel into the Marudi mines.
For the South Rupununi villages, all measures including the 6 pm to 6 am curfew will remain in place until further notice.
“Now more than ever, we demand that the Government and regional authorities support our decisions and measures to protect our people from the spread of this deadly virus,” the Council pleaded.
Following the outbreak earlier this year, the District Council blocked several illegal crossings along the Guyana-Brazil border and began to monitor the porous border.
“The inadequate healthcare systems and supplies in our region leave our people extremely vulnerable to disease, particularly this novel coronavirus,” the SRDC said.
As such, the council has made several calls and issued official letters to the National COVID-19 Task Force asking for mining activities in Region Nine to be suspended.
“The Government’s prioritization of interests such as mining is compounded by the inadequacy of the public health response to this global pandemic,” the indigenous leaders said, adding that there have been cases where persons take weeks to get tested after a report was made and then several days to receive their results.
“We note with concern that after the announcement of the confirmed cases in our communities, it took more than 48 hours before patients were transported to the hospital in Lethem. We also note that the inadequate supply of testing kits for Region 9 only allows for persons with severe symptoms to be tested,” the council said as it noted that such occurrences heighten the risk of increased community transmission
The SRDC also asked for more assistance to monitor border crossings and prevent the entry of persons who are not residents. Further, it requested access to medical equipment and supplies to the south Rupununi communities.
According to the statement, “to date, we have received little to no response to our concerns and pleas for assistance. Our greatest threat remains the vast open border the South Rupununi shares with Brazil.”
Brazil has confirmed over 2M cases of the COVID-19 and recorded over 76,000 deaths.
The first set of cases recorded in Region Nine were patients who travelled from Brazil but Regional Health Officer Niall Utham told the News Room that entry into Guyana could not have been prevented as they were dual citizens.
Trafficking of Brazilians
Last week, the Iwokrama International Centre for Rainforest Conservation and Development raised concerns about the trafficking of Brazilians through its rainforest.
Iwokrama spoke of two instances where transport operators were found transporting the foreigners through the region.
It reported that on June 13, two buses with groups believed to be from Brazil passed through its territory followed by an incident on July 6 where three illegal Brazilians were found on a bus at its ranger station at Corkwood.
A secret way of bypassing the monitoring stations and getting illegals past the Police at Corkwood and Kurupukari was also discovered.
Noting the serious threat and health risk posed to communities, Iwokrama has warned that vehicles found culpable will be permanently banned from entering the Iwokrama Forest.