OMICRON SURGE: Pres. Ali urges vaccination or ‘self-imposed mandatory mask-wearing’

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President Irfaan Ali during an emergency virtual media briefing on Wednesday urged citizens to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or adhere to a self-imposed mandatory mask-wearing amid suspicions that the more transmissible Omicron variant of COVID-19 is in Guyana.

“It is still critical that while you are still making up your mind whether you will get vaccinated that you adhere to a self-imposition of mandatory mask wear to minimise the viral load or your exposure,” the Head of State said.

The President’s comments came hours after health officials confirmed that over 1,200 persons tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 48 hours.

“These cases are going to go up,” Health Minister Dr. Frank Anthony warned as he joined the President along with other health officials at State House for the virtual briefing.

The Health Minister is convinced that the new Omicron variant is responsible for the significant increase in infections although there is no epidemiological data just yet.

“We are operating on the advice that it [Omicron] is here and we are taking action on that advice.”

Dr. Ali was stern in his repeated urging for citizens to be vaccinated, saying it remained the best option against contracting the virus or becoming severely ill.

“Vaccination with booster minimises the impact of the new variant.

“Some describe [the symptoms] as being mild, but those who are not vaccinated need to take additional precautions for themselves and families,” a concerned President Ali said.

He said, on a seemingly good note, that while there is a high positivity ratio, there has been no steep increase in hospitalisation.

“We don’t have control over the variant and how it will operate but we have control over our own options,” Dr. Ali added.

He assured that the government was keen on keeping public services functional while managing health facilities and personnel who are critical to the fight against COVID-19.

With limitations on public testing and the availability of sites, the President and Health Minister have both assured that the State has enough capacity to manage the current situation.

Dr. Ali said public schools, which reopened to face to face classes on Monday, will remain open although there is already an impact on healthcare delivery with several persons who work at health facilities across the country testing positive in the last three days.

This was confirmed by the Medical Director at the Georgetown Public Hospital Dr. Fawcettt Jeffery who assured that the hospital, and by extension the Ocean View facility, are ready to respond to cases should there be an increase in hospitalisation.

Currently, the majority of active cases – some 1,648 infected people – reside in Region Four. In Region Six, there are 338 active cases while 206 cases are in Region Three, 115 cases are in Region Nine and 82 are in Region 10.

Currently, over 80 per cent of adults have taken a single dose of a vaccine while more than 50 per cent are fully vaccinated.

With vaccines still available, Director of Primary Health Care Services Dr. Ertenisa Hamilton has urged the unvaccinated to get vaccinated, the vaccinated to get their booster shots and the parents of children between 12 and 18 years old to ensure that they too are vaccinated.

Health officials have assured that there is no need to panic given two years of experience already in managing the spread of the virus. Mask wearing and immune-boosting are highly recommended.

But ultimately, vaccination remains the best option.

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