Prime Minister, Brigadier (rt’d) Mark Phillips, on Thursday afternoon, described the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed 82 persons in Guyana as the foremost threat to national security but defended the decision to reduce the COVID-19 curfew hours.
September was the deadliest month for Guyana since the first death was recorded on March 11; 41 persons died in this month alone taking the death toll to 82.
The curfew hours previously ran from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. but now runs from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m.
The Prime Minister said reducing the hours is not to allow for persons to party and relax but to allow people to go to work and conduct business while activating a robust campaign with the Police and Army to ensure the measures on wearing a mask, sanitizing hands, and keeping social distance are enforced.
He said keeping people hemmed in through the previous 12-hour curfew period could lead to protests and rebellion.
Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony said the decision to reduce the curfew hours was intended to ensure a balance in protecting lives and ensure people are able to work and live.
Dr Anthony referred to a recent survey by CARICOM and United Nations agencies which showed that the COVID-19 pandemic is having far-reaching impacts on how people earn a living and meet critical needs.
Most respondents in the survey conducted in April reported no difficulties eating enough, but one-third adapted their diets by less preferred foods or skipping meals/eating less than usual.
The survey pointed to disruptions to livelihoods being widespread, with 77% of respondents indicating that their ability to carry out their livelihood was affected.
COVID-19 has impacted incomes, with about 38% of respondents reporting the loss of jobs or reduced salaries, the survey reported.
Before Thursday, businesses considered essential were allowed to operate until 5 p.m. but now, the time is extended to 8 p.m. These businesses are banks and other financial institutions, markets, supermarkets, fruit and vegetable stalls, bulk food stores and neighbourhood grocery shops, gas stations, postal and shipping services, beauty salons and barbershops; operation, inspection, repair and maintenance of essential services including vehicles, vessels and aircraft and traffic signal maintenance; automotive repair and maintenance facilities that provide direct support to essential businesses; hardware, plumbing and electrical stores; clothing, shoes and book stores; services necessary for maintenance of residences including plumbing, electrical and extermination services.
Additionally, food services and restaurants shall be opened only for delivery, drive-thru, curbside pickup and take away services from 4 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The Prime Minister said businesses found to be in breach of the measures will be warned first and thereafter shut down if they breach the regulations again.
Gyms, bars, rum shops and night clubs remain closed until October 31, 2020.