Guyana’s readiness for public health emergencies being reviewed at Int’l Health Regulation Committee Meeting

The Health Ministry in partnership with the Pan-American Health Organisation, and the World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO) and other relevant stakeholders on Tuesday, convened the International Health Regulations (IHR) National Focal Point Committee Meeting at Herdmanston Lodge in Georgetown.        

The main objective of this two-day event is to have stakeholders review Guyana’s capability to detect and report potential public health emergencies, in accordance with the IHR (2005) agreement.

Health Minister, Dr Frank Anthony

Health Minister, Dr Frank Anthony, in his feature address, reminded the stakeholders of the timeliness and relevance of convening the meeting.

He referenced the lessons learnt from the recent COVID-19 pandemic and the collective efforts that were required around the world to manage such a large-scale public health emergency.

“This exemplifies the challenges that we are going to face…  [likewise] it is important to understand that it is estimated that there are about ten to the fiftieth power of viruses that exist out there – that is a lot of viruses.

“The problem that we will have with the human population is that we do not have immunity against many of these viruses… which can be very devastating because our immune system would be meeting [many] of these viruses for the first time” Dr Anthony explained.

PAHO/WHO Adviser on Disease Surveillance, Dr Rainier Escalada

Further, the minister expressed the importance of preparedness following the devastation experienced with COVID-19, noting that a potential new outbreak in the future would replicate itself.

Also addressing the gathering was PAHO/WHO representative, Dr Rainier Escalada, who noted that this review process enables a country to determine how capable it is of implementing the IHR.

“Because of what we have experienced in the last couple of years with the pandemic there have been renewed interest to ensure that the capacities of a nation such as Guyana, are intact, not just to prevent, but also to prepare and to respond to any upcoming and evolving pandemics or similar occurrences” he said.

Chief Medical Officer, Dr Narine Singh

Meanwhile, Guyana’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Narine Singh explained that the review process will look at what is already in existence, and what needs to be put in place using the IHR regulations.

The International Health Regulations (IHR) 2005 are a legally binding agreement of 196 countries to build the capability to detect and report potential public health emergencies worldwide.

Guyana will submit its report to an external review panel of experts after consultations with all stakeholders.

Participants at the IHR National Focal Point Committee Meeting

Advisor to the Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy and other representatives from various agencies were also in attendance.