One year later: Guyana’s treatment of COVID-19 progressing

Today marks exactly one year since the first COVID-19 case was recorded in Guyana.

Minister of Health, Hon. Dr Frank Anthony says looking back, Guyana has made a lot of progress in its handling of the disease.

Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Frank Anthony

He said with the ramped-up efforts, persons are now more informed about the disease than they were one year ago. Further, Guyana has reached a major milestone in treating the disease with the roll out of COVID-19 vaccines. This, Dr. Anthony said, holds promise for the future.

“Once we immunise our population, we will be able to arrive at herd immunity, which means that for the virus to transmit within this population, it would be much more difficult once people are immunised.”

High Commissioner of India, His Excellency, Dr. K.J. Srinivasa, Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Frank Anthony, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Colette Adams, CEO of the Georgetown Public Hospital, Brigadier (ret’d) George A. Lewis and representatives from PAHO and the Indian High Commission at the handing over of a quantity of medical supplies to treat Covid.

Through donations from Barbados, China and India, Guyana received 103,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines. The Ministry started its immunisation campaign in February by vaccinating frontline health workers first, before it embarked on the second phase to inoculate persons aged 60 and above.

During Thursday’s COVID-19 update, Minister Anthony said March 11, 2020 is also the day the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) a pandemic.

While several measures were put in place to combat the disease locally, much more was still to be done. However, it was not until the PPP/C Government took office in August 2020 that increased efforts were made to reduce transmission of COVID-19.

Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Frank Anthony and health officials inspect the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention at Liliendaal.

One of the first things the new Government did was to increase testing for the disease.

“If you weren’t testing enough, then you really can’t understand the magnitude of the pandemic in the country. So, one of our priorities has been to increase the level of testing and so we have improved the capacity at the National Public Health Reference Lab and now we are capable of probably doing about 2,000 tests per day,” Dr. Anthony said.

The Ministry also installed point of care testing machines and has utilised antigen testing as part of its programme.

Additionally, the Eureka Medical Laboratory was certified to conduct the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, while several other sites were able to provide antigen tests.

Minister Anthony said it has drastically improved testing capacity across the country. This move was complemented by the efforts to boost hospitals’ capacity to treat COVID-19 patients.

“We have improved the regional hospitals by adding beds, adding ventilators, oxygen concentrators; these are all things that are necessary to manage the acute respiratory distress that patients would experience,” he said.

The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention at Liliendaal was also furnished with the necessary equipment to become a fully functional COVID-19 hospital.

Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Frank Anthony and officials from the Ministry of Health and the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation examine equipment at the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention Corporation at Liliendaal in August 2020.

“So, from a medical response I think we have gone leaps and bounds in terms of what we are doing to manage COVID patients,” Minister Anthony said.

Dr. Anthony also noted that several steps were also taken to cushion the soci0-economic impact of the disease on the population. In addition to money allocated in the 2020 Emergency Budget for $25,000 per household COVID-19 cash grants countrywide, the Government gradually reopened some sectors in keeping with the COVID-19 gazetted precautionary measures to bolster the economy.