Kill us softly with its COVID-19 strategy
Kaieteur News- Yesterday, the country recorded an additional 60 confirmed COVID-19 cases, continuing the trend that has begun since the start of the New Year. The pandemic is now a train that has run away.
The PPP / C does not know what to do next. He has always been short of ideas but nothing points to his intellectual baldness or his failure to come for tighter enforcement.
The President speaks brightly of the soft approach to enforcement, given the impracticability of arresting and detaining people. Again, like his Health Minister and Prime Minister, he reiterates the call for greater responsibility from citizens. This is like saying that people should take extra care inside and outside the home instead of the police taking drastic action to fight crime.
The soft mode doesn’t work. The violations of social restrictions are now widespread. Hundreds of people congregate in wake houses and funeral homes to pay their last respects to the dead. The barrage is full on Sunday. A popular hotel always seems to have a large number of vehicles parked outside its building. But we are told that social isolation is practiced inside.
The police are supposed to be doing a good job in soft enforcement, according to the President. But about 800 meters away from a Police Station there is a bar that is open to customers.
People are having a good time. Birthday parties and weddings are held without suspensions. Some people walk the streets without face masks. Some businesses accept customers without face masks.
If social isolation is not practiced, what is to be done? Is the government simply turning a blind eye to breaking its own regulations?
The government has run out of options. He is now counting on a vaccine to help prevent the rate of infection. But if numbers continue their steep trajectory, 24,000 vaccines will have no effect. There must be a plan at the same time to prevent infections as well as vaccinate the population.
The first installment of 3,400 vaccines under the COVAX initiative is said to be expected in February. That can be overly optimistic given the scarcity that plagues the worldwide vaccination campaign.
China is also said to give 20,000 vaccines. That’s 20,000 too few. The high-risk age group in Guyana starts from age 55, not 65, and about 40,000 vaccines would need to cover the 55-plus age range.
China has so far produced two vaccines. One of them is produced by SINOPHARM, a state-owned company; and the other by SINOVAC, a private company. Neither of these two vaccines has yet been cleared by the World Health Organization (WHO). A decision by the World Health Organization is not expected before March but some other countries have already started using the vaccines.
Neither the President nor his Health Minister has said which of the vaccines Guyana will receive. It is important that any vaccine given to the elderly – the most high-risk group – should not have an efficacy rate of less than 75 percent.
The efficacy of the vaccine produced by SINOVAC has been disputed. China should only be asked to administer the SINOPHARM vaccine. It will cost the Chinese nothing more to add an extra 20,000 to get enough sizes to vaccinate the 55+ age group.
The government plans to get 35 teams involved. That is an insufficient number given the size and complexity of Guyana’s territory. Thirty-five teams, that’s maybe all that’s needed in Region Four alone. Not for the whole country!
It also means that each team will have to vaccinate 200 people a day. An average of one person every five minutes – pre-registration, appointments and paperwork required – would mean that, in an eight-hour shift, one station can only do about 100 vaccinations a day. Therefore, each team will need at least two stations to ensure that the target is met.
In the meantime, every Guyanese should get down on his knees and pray that this newest wave of infection subsides as quickly as it emerges. Because the government has run out of ideas on what to do and is hoping on the vaccines to do the trick.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of this newspaper.)