The new Government of Dr Irfaan Ali has buckled down to tackling the COVID-19 pandemic and is likely to introduce mass testing and roll-out plans to re-open the country with strict guidelines.
A total of 46, 250 rapid testing kits, along with 200,000 surgical masks and other items are expected in the country on Wednesday. These items are being sent by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (DMEMA), an inter-regional supportive network of independent emergency units throughout the Caribbean region.
Dr Ali, in an interview with the News Room on Monday, described the pandemic as the single most important issue facing the country, saying it has serious implications for the country’s economy.
Dr Ali, along with Prime Minister Mark Phillips and Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo, met with key stakeholders on Monday at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre. Sitting at the head table with them were Dr Frank Anthony, who is tipped to be Minister of Health, acting Police Commissioner Nigel Hoppie and the Army’s Chief of Staff (ag) Colonel Godfrey Bess.
Those at the meeting included representatives from the main public hospital GPHC, private hospitals, the key private sector organisations along with various Government ministries and departments.
Dr Karen Gordon-Boyle, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, said the Army and the Police have been “missing” in the fight against the pandemic. She said their presence is needed at the border with Brazil, which she described as an imminent threat.
Dr Gordon-Boyle agreed with the suggestion that the regions with a high number of cases be cordoned off to control the spread of the disease.
President Ali said that the consultations will continue into Tuesday and a national plan will be announced once he meets with the country’s political parties.
From the initial assessment, he said the way the pandemic has been managed is “worrying” as he noted gaps in coordination.
He said COVID-19 is a national emergency and he intends to deal with it with urgency.
Lieutenant Colonel Kester Craig, Director General of the Civil Defence Commission, said it has been a challenge to determine the household needs of the vulnerable but he said the United Nations Development Programme is helping with a social and economic assessment to identify key areas.