By Bibi Khatoon
The Guyana government is not considering the restriction of flights from the John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport to Guyana even as New York City struggles to contain a major surge in COVID-19 cases over the past two weeks.
The JFK airport is one of the major transit points for passengers travelling to Guyana.
During an interview with the News Room earlier this week, Minister of Health, Dr Frank Anthony was asked whether the matter is under consideration to which he responded: “at this point, no.”
The Health Minister believes that the systems in place at Guyana’s airports are sufficient to detect any positive cases of the COVID-19.
“We have fairly stringent guidelines and I think once people are negative and they come on the plane, then that’s fine…and it shows that our system has been working because we have detected so far 11 cases,” Dr Anthony said.
“You just can’t come on a plane without that PCR test, so I think that’s a real safeguard that we have,” he added.
The requirements to travel to Guyana include a negative COVID-19 PCR test which was done less than 72 hours before arrival. If the test was done more than 72 hours before arrival, the passengers are swabbed at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) or the Eugene F. Correia International Airport; they receive their results within a few hours.
If someone is tested positive, health officials contact passengers who were sitting next to them on the flight. Given the nature of the pandemic, the Minister said many things remain uncertain.
“The challenge you have with these things is that you can test now and ten minutes after, five minutes after you are exposed and you can get COVID – that’s a challenge so that’s what we’re working with,” Dr Anthony told the News Room.
However, he said, “most of the studies that we have seen and reviews that we have seen, point to at least that 72 hours, so it’s not a perfect number but it has given us a fairly good window which we can judge people.”
Since Guyana reopened its airports on October 12, over 3,100 persons travelled from New York City.
The City, on November 19, closed all public schools and reverted to online learning due to a second wave of the pandemic.
Thirty-eight neighbourhoods across the five boroughs registered COVID-19 7-day positivity rates above 4% between November 9 and 15. Nine areas — five of which are in Queens — had a 7-day positivity rate of 5% or greater.