COVID-19 screening and testing unit set up at Aranka/ Arangoy Landing.

DPI, Guyana, Thursday, July 9, 2020 

Persons living and working on the Aranka/ Arangoy Landing, up the Cuyuni River in Region Seven, can now easily access COVID-19 screening and testing at a medical unit established by the National COVID-19 Task Force in the area.

A team, inclusive of members of the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), Civil Defense Commission (CDC), Guyana Police Force (GPF), Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) and Corps of Wardens from the Ministry of Natural Resources will be in the area for approximately one month to conduct screening and testing.

The decision to implement the checkpoint in the area came following reports of three persons testing positive for COVID-19.

“The Aranka/ Arangoy landing was considered a place of utmost importance and interest to the Ministry of Public Health because prior to our arrival here a team was already in there because we had three public servants; one from the Guyana Police Force and two from the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission who tested positive for the virus.”  Dr. Leston Payne, Deputy Director, Health Emergency Operations Centre (HEOC) told the DPI.

Dr. Payne said an initial team was sent into the area to do evidence-based surveillance. “To ascertain the extent of the spread of infection in that area.”  

He said during that first visit seven other positive cases were discovered through contact tracing.

“But what was interesting to note is that we established a solid epidemiological link with the positive cases in the Aranka/ Arangoy Landing and the Moruca district. So, we decided that if there is going to be an increase of cases in Moruca there is going to be an increase of cases in Aranka, and the numbers would have shown then that determination was true” Dr. Payne explained.

He added that compliance to established guidelines such as social distancing and wearing face masks at Aranka/Arangoy remained a challenge. “We were not satisfied with the response we were getting from residents in the community, and the number of cases was beginning to rise.”

Further, Dr. Payne added that after realising that the (spread) of the virus was limited to a specific demographic; migrant population and miners, it was decided that another team would return to the area.  

“So, when we went back to the table we evaluated all the variables surrounding these areas, we thought it pertinent to implement what we are calling an enhanced containment mitigation method to control the spread of the infection and reduce the cluster area and epicentres.”

On Sunday last, the team comprising officers of the CDC and Guyana Police Force, wardens, mining officers and medical personnel arrived at the Aranka/ Arangoy Landing.

The following days – Monday and Tuesday – despite the inclement weather, the CDC team constructed the ‘pre-fab’ units donated by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). After this was completed, and pending the arrival of more medical supplies, the medical team would take over and begin work.  

The Guyana Geology and Mines Commission and Corps of Wardens will assist in locating camps within the area, while the special team of police officers accompanying the team, would provide enforcement wherever necessary.

“So we engaged the GPF and the Corps of Wardens to assist us in this regard because they would be very essential in securing the strategic checkpoints and screening points that we would have established in the environs of the Aranka/ Arangoy district, and also to secure our mobile quarantine/ isolation unit that we would set up,” Dr. Payne related.

We must have their support to also assist in getting the message across that we are serious,” he emphasised.

Meanwhile, resident Wilbur Wade, told DPI, that he welcomed the establishment of the checkpoint. “I think it’s a very good initiative because a lot of people in this back dam not taking it seriously,” he noted.

Wade added that despite the COVID-19 reports reaching the area, persons were still not taking the matter seriously. “You are seeing people not wearing masks and these kinds of things. Of course, we hear what going on in the news, how much people test positive and so on.”

Wade, whose father and uncles began mining in the area some 50 years ago, and has his own operation in the area, committed to having his workers screened and tested where necessary.

The Aranka/ Arangoy Landing, situated up the Cuyuni River in the Aranka Creek can be reached by air, land and sea.

Aranka is a transit point for miners who work in and around the area. It boasts small wooden grocery shops, food and internet café and bars, a Guyana Geology and Mines Commission office and a police outpost. There is no health post in the area. 

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Coronavirus disease spreads primarily through contact with an infected person when they cough or sneeze. It also spreads when a person touches a surface or object that has the virus on it, then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth. We urge citizens to practice good hygiene and social or physical distancing also adhere to the guidelines provided by the Ministry of Health, Guyana.