I WISH to take this opportunity to recognise the Government of Guyana, particularly the Ministry of Health, the office of the Prime Minister, the office of the President, the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security, and all other ministries and ministers for their admirable and splendid efforts in attempting to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus in our country.
Unfortunately, since the emergence of this awful disease, we have seen the loss of tens of thousands of lives, particularly in countries such as India and Brazil, whose daily death toll is heartbreakingly staggering. Even in Guyana, our rate of infection is quite alarming given the ratio per capita.
It is unfortunate that despite the infection numbers rising across the globe, there are those who simply ignore it. For those of us who are mindful of the gravity of this terrible epidemic, I take this opportunity to remind those who are indifferent about this horrific disease that it has the ability to decimate mankind in the same manner that a hostile alien invader invades a body and kills the host as it travels from person to person. When the COVID-19 virus mutates, it poses an even more serious threat.
Many people are unaware that they may be asymptomatic and therefore transmit the disease. They are unaware that this virus is a killer capable of destroying not only themselves, but also their friends, families, and anyone else in their path. If the disaster in India is not a wake-up call, I do not know what is! As we speak, India’s COVID-19 death toll continues to surge, so much so that bodies, given the large number of deaths, are being washed up along the great Ganges. My fingers tremble and my heart aches as I type this!
Here in Guyana, the challenges we encounter in persuading the indifferent minds are understandable. However, if we are to put an end to this, we must instill more discipline in the people by establishing and applying tougher rules and regulations. I believe that impromptu raids, for example, at the Mon Repos Market, shops on Water and Regent Street, the seawall and other recreational places, mosques, temples, and churches, are necessary to ensure that procedures are observed. I would also go so far as to recommend that offenders be detained in a “stockade,” so to speak. A school building could be used for this purpose, where perpetrators could be detained for 12 to 24 hours. They must not have access to their mobiles whilst in the stockade, and can only make one phone call to a family member or friend. They would be required to sign a statement, both soft and hard copies, explaining that they were detained for violating the law and that a recurrence would result in more stringent detention time. This is for the sake of instilling fear in their hearts and the inconvenience of being detained!
Furthermore, I would like to take this opportunity to encourage the Government of Guyana to appoint or consider COVID-19 “enforcers/counselors”, comprising of high school students, business people, other professionals, university students, and even members of the public. These enforcers/counsellors who volunteer their time can be appointed to be on the lookout for those who violate the COVID-19 protocols and regulations. These enforcers/counsellors can warn them, show them pictures of the stockade, and if they do not comply, then off they go to the stockade. If people in Guyana who break these rules see this as a scare, they may probably adhere to the COVID-19 protocols more. We need to create such “enforcer/counsellor teams” from Berbice to Essequibo, from the West Coast of Demerara to the West Bank of Demerara, to all interior areas, etc.
These enforcers/counsellors can be given an ID card and certificate appointing and recognising them for their voluntary work in the aide of Guyana’s development and growth during this difficult time. This certificate of recognition can even be used as a form of patriotic motivation and for which can be produced in time to come to get certain benefits for their personal development.
With the aforementioned in mind, I also wish to recommend to the Government of Guyana to accept the Antigen test upon entry to Guyana, so as to facilitate travels. Antigens are widely used in the USA and other developed countries. It is even commonly accepted for Guyanese flying to the United States. It simplifies life and is less costly. As a frequent flyer that flies on a need-to basis for business and medical emergencies, getting the PCR test completed so as to return to Guyana can be inconvenient at times. Take for instance in the United States, where it is sometimes very difficult to get a PCR test in time to travel within three days of the test. On a recent emergency trip, I was told that I would have to wait five days for my results, despite being told earlier that it would take only 24 hours. This seemed to be a ruse to me for the profitability of the laboratory in Fort Lauderdale.
My point here is this: in order to facilitate travel, we take the Antigen test in the United States or elsewhere before returning to Guyana, much as we would for entry into another country. If the PCR is still required by law upon entry into Guyana, I respectfully propose we do it here, allowing local labs and clinics in Guyana a chance to make some money while also lowering the cost to the Guyanese traveller returning home.
While I share this Antigen concept, I was asked on Facebook in a very derogatory manner if I was “going on vacation” and why I was vehemently advocating for Antigens when I could afford a PCR test. I certainly was not going on any vacation. That was the farthest thing from my mind, and I am sure it is the same for most people who have to travel for emergency purposes. At that moment, I realised that some people will rather assume than understand.
I hope my suggestions are taken into consideration, but most importantly, I pray that Almighty God heals us from within! I implore all to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and follow the government’s restrictions and protocols. We will only be safe if everyone else is safe!
Haji Dr. Roshan Khan Snr.