Election fiasco, poor management delayed proper response to COVID-19 – PM

-over 200,000 vaccines expected by end of March

Prime Minister Hon. Brigadier (Ret’d) Mark Phillips, during a virtual panel discussion organised by the Yale Caribbean Students’ Organization, on the “Caribbean’s response to COVID-19”, said that Guyana’s initial reaction to the pandemic could have been stronger had it not been for the five-month election impasse. 

“We had five months where the country was focused on dealing with the political issue and that itself affected the response to COVID-19”.

Prime Minister Hon. Brigadier (Ret’d) Mark Phillips

The Prime Minister said that it took a new administration to strengthen the work of the national COVID-19 Task Force and boost the country’s capacity to adequately respond to the pandemic. He noted that the previous administration during its tenure, conducted as low as 20 PCR tests per day while the disease was spreading.

“On the second of August 2020, that is when the national COVID-19 task force really came into its own and started what we were expected to do in the face of a pandemic”.

The Prime Minister explained that upon assuming office last August the COVID-19 Task Force was reorganised into a policy unit, health response unit and economic and social response unit. He said that the Government immediately began to mobilise resources to boost capacity. 

“Quickly the policy unit met with the local representatives of PAHO/WHO, CARICOM, the private sector and started to mobilise the PPEs, testing kits and ventilators… we were able to scale up our activities, build capacity in our health sector and today we are doing just about 2000 PCR tests per day”.

He said that Guyana is now at the stage of vaccination against COVID-19.

The country has received 3000 doses from Barbados, 20,000 doses from China and is expecting 80,000 doses from India and approximately 104,000 doses from COVAX in the coming weeks. That will bring the country to 207, 000 doses by the end of March.  

The Prime Minister noted that while local laws do not address vaccination for adults, this will not hamper the Government’s efforts to roll out the vaccines.

“While we agree to have a review of the existing legislation, that itself will not hold up the roll out of our vaccination programme. The review of the legislation will go ahead as planned, however because of our approach that the vaccine will be optional, that will be rolled out as we receive the vaccines. Our approach is to vaccinate the health workers first because we recognise that they are the frontline workers, then we will have our Joint Services… the elderly, teachers and of course the people with comorbidities.”

Other panellists involved in the virtual discussion were the National HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Programme Director (Bahamas), Dr Nikkiah Forbes and Director of the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV/AIDS (PANCAP), Dr Rosmond Adams.

The session was chaired by the first Guyanese president of the Yale Caribbean Students’ Organization, Ms Ashley Anthony. 

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