DRONES is being used as part of the many measures to prevent illegal crossings at the Guyana / Brazil border in Region Nine (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo) and Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni), amid pervasive concerns over the surge in COVID -19 cases and deaths in Brazil.
According to reports from the CNN, Brazil is currently facing another wave of COVID-19, where thousands of people are infected with SARS-CoV-2 every day (the virus that causes the COVID disease -19). Brazil has also surpassed 330,000 deaths. Aggravating this situation is that a mutated form of the virus – the variant P1 – has been discovered in this country; this variant is said to be more transmissible, which means more people can become infected.
“We are still concerned about the strain (the P1 variant) from Brazil which is why we have sealed the border to prevent illegal crossings,” said COVID-19 National Task Force Director (NCTF), Colonel Nazrul Hussain told the Guyana Chronicle on Sunday.
Since March of last year, the border between Guyana and Brazil has been closed as part of efforts to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus novel, and, earlier this year, flights from Brazil ceased. Although these restrictions were established, trade was allowed, but only on Thursdays via Takutu Bridge, which is the official crossing between the two countries.
The size of the border has allowed people to cross using several ‘back track’ routes or illegal crossings. In a previous interview with this newspaper, Colonel Hussain highlighted that Joint Services patrols and checkpoints on the Guyana / Brazil border would be increased in an attempt to reduce the import of COVID-19 cases.
On Sunday, the Colonel asked that the increased presence of Joint Services had contributed to a reduction in the number of illegal crossings between the two countries, thereby reducing the spread of the new coronavirus.
Further, he noted that drone technology was also being used to help monitor border efforts. Because the Guyana-Brazil border is wide and quite permeable, the Guyana Chronicle was told that monitoring efforts were difficult. The shared boundary spans approximately 1,119 kilometers (or about 695 miles).
Colonel, however, said the use of the drones had resulted in “limited success” so far, as more human resources were needed to strengthen monitoring arrangements at different locations.
He also noted that members of the Guyana People’s Militia had been involved in the monitoring exercise. These reserve officers have been involved in mobile and static patrols.
In January, Regional Chairman of Region Nine, Brian Allicock, voiced his concerns about the illegal crossings between Guyana and Brazil. Allicock contacted that many of the illegal crossings occur at night, where, despite best efforts to patrol the area by the armed forces and community policing groups, passengers are able to “slip through.” He also highlighted that many of the people crossing illegally travel in “clicks” which allows them to better move the border restrictions.
In March, when the Guyana Chronicle traveled to the ‘Southern South’ area of Region Nine, the South Rupununi District Council (SRDC) had already taken steps to ensure the spread of COVID-19 in the region.
At Aishalton and several other communities, gates were erected at the entrance to the communities to monitor and record travel, allowing village councils to participate in its own contact tracking, if needed. The gate monitors – women from the village – are tasked with recording the name and temperature of each person.