By Kurt Campbell
Pressed for a reopening of the Guyana/Brazil border, the Guyana Government intends to implement a system that would allow for vaccinated and COVID-19 negative persons to utilise the Takutu River Bridge, linking Lethem in Guyana to Bonfim in Brazil for only one day per week.
The border has been closed for more than a year, preventing the movement of people between the border communities. A standing arrangement between the two countries only allowed for goods to be brought into Guyana once per week.
But even with that arrangement in place, authorities and residents in Region Nine (Upper Takatu – Upper Essequibo) had complained of dwindling economic activity and increased hardships. There was also an almost three-week protest which saw no goods being sent from Bonfim to Lethem.
On Tuesday, several high profile officials in the region including Regional Chairman Bryan Allicock wrote to Prime Minister, Brigadier (ret’d) Mark Phillips requesting a phased reopening of the border that would allow for people to cross.
But Phillips told the News Room by telephone on Wednesday that he had only seen the letter on social media. He said, however, that the government had been considering the demands and has considered allowing persons to cross.
The Prime Minister also said that trucks, which were prevented from coming to Guyana for the period, arrived over the last two days in Lethem with the much-needed supplies.
While the restriction will remain in place allowing for the crossing to be opened on Thursdays only, the Prime Minister explained Brazilians will be allowed into the country.
Those persons would need to be vaccinated with at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and present a negative PCR COVID-19 test, taken within 72 hours of travelling, to be allowed entry in Guyana. The arrangement is the same as all other ports of entry.
“We are still considering the request to open the crossing additional days but we will continue to allow trucks to cross on Thursday and on the same day people will be allowed to come over once they meet the requirements,” the Prime Minister told the News Room.
Responding to complaints of affected commercial activity, the Prime Minister said “the border was closed for a reason and that reason is COVID-19… it is obvious everything will be affected.”
The Prime Minister believes that the arrangement that existed for more than a year was helpful “in easing the burden.”
“What we have now is a protest or demand, request for Brazilians and Guyanese living in Brazil who want to come over as they did before to just drive over or take a taxi and come over.
“We will now allow that to happen but on the same day that the trucks are coming and they have to submit themselves to all the requirements,” he said.
Meanwhile, in a recent statement, Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony said that while it was Guyana’s desire to have the border between the two countries opened as quickly as possible, this had to be done safely given the continuing rise in COVID-19 cases and the threat of the spread of the Delta variant across the communities.
Brazil is among the countries with the highest COVID-19 infection rates and deaths in the world.