Misinformation, geography of Reg. 8 plague COVID-19 response 

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Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni) is the only region in Guyana with the lowest confirmed cases of COVID-19 and deaths. Since March 2020, the region has recorded 621 positive cases and seven deaths.

Regional Health Officer Dr Ravendra Dudhnath told the News Room on Tuesday that misinformation and the overall landscape of the region are greatly affecting the COVID-19 response.

He believes that the number of confirmed cases is not reflective of the actual number of people infected given the challenges with testing and accessing the remote villages.

“Our response to the COVID-19 vaccine has been somewhat challenging especially in certain Amerindian villages… there is a lot of resistance,” Dr Dudhnath said. According to him, residents in the region have cited religious reasons for not taking the COVID-19 vaccine.

Regional Health Officer Dr Ravendra Dudhnath

However, the new gazetted order released in November states that only fully vaccinated people are allowed to travel via aircraft out of the region. And Dr Dudhnath said with this, there has been a slight increase in vaccination.

“Because of the high resistance of persons not taking the vaccination, you would find persons not wanting to take the COVID test,” Dr Dudhnath explained.

Additionally, because of the constraint of the geography of the region, he said it is difficult to get COVID-19 samples out of some of the villages. For this reason, a rapid COVID antigen test is conducted most of the time. But Dr Dudhnath said the more accurate PCR test is preferred since the antigen test can show a false negative result.

“Flights don’t go into these villages on a daily basis and flights only come in and out of our region on Sundays, Mondays Wednesdays and Fridays.

“We would have to send out these samples to the National Reference Lab in Georgetown and we only have a three-day span to test,” he explained.

The Regional Health Officer further stated that there are enough resources in terms of health workers and facilities to respond to the pandemic.

“We would have tried a lot of strategies; when ministers and other persons in high authority come, they would also help in sensitisation, we continue in these places, house to house and at our fixed sites we would encourage persons to come out and take the vaccine.”

In their campaign to address the issue of misinformation and increase the region’s vaccination rate, Dr Dudhnath explained that they would meet with residents and listen to their concerns, then: “we would go back, take this information and develop strategies.”

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