The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has had a devastating impact globally. Guyana confirmed its first imported case of COVID-19 in Georgetown on Wednesday 11th March 2020.

That patient, a 52-year-old Guyanese woman who had travelled from the United States of America to Guyana on 5th March, presented to the public health system on 10th March. She died at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation on 11th March.

The total number of confirmed COVID- 19 cases in Guyana has since increased to eight inclusive of one death.

Guyanese, Guyana responded quickly to the pandemic. I appointed Prime Minster Moses Nagamootoo Chairman of the National COVID-19 Task Force. The Task Force has drafted a National Strategic Master Plan that will guide our approach to combatting the Novel Coronavirus Disease.

On Monday, 16TH March 2020, I issued directions under the Public Health Ordinance (Cap.145) and international standard to prevent and control the spread of this disease.

I authorised the Minister of Public Health to take all measures considered necessary to restrain, segregate and isolate persons suffering from the disease and, or who may be likely to be suffering from the disease.

The public must adhere to infection prevention and control measures as personal conduct is the single most important element in preventing the spread of this deadly disease.

The Minister of Public Health, Hon. Volda Lawrence established the Health Emergency Operations Centre. I thank the Ministry and the Centre for the work they have done to date in containing the spread of COVID -19. The Centre has been conducting screening, testing and quarantining and, when necessary, isolating those who have been suspected in having contracted the virus or those who may have come into contact with infected persons.

The National Task Force continues to monitor the situation in Guyana, and this includes citizens’ conduct. We are concerned that too many citizens and businesses have been ignoring public advisories and warnings.

Guyanese, a cavalier approach in the face of this global pandemic can seriously impair our efforts to combat COVID -19. Consequences will be devastating for the entire population.

Several additional measures aimed at limiting social contact are already in force:

All schools have been closed until 20th April;National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA) has been postponed and new dates will be announced;

The University of Guyana’s campuses have been closed;

The Cheddi Jagan and the Eugene F. Correia International airports have suspended operations for two weeks, starting 18th March 2020;

Travel to countries which border Guyana has been suspended;Seaports have been closed to international vessels except merchant ships from 21st March 2020;

Public Servants have been placed on a rotational shift system of duty;

The Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) has waived the Value Added Tax (VAT) on medical supplies associated with the testing, prevention and treatment of COVID-19; and

The Guyana Police Force has augmented its deployment to deter persons from using the ‘back-track’ route to enter and leave the East Berbice – Corentyne Region.

The Minister of Public Health has kept the Cabinet and public abreast on the progress of the National Anti-Corona Virus Campaign and will continue to do so.

Guyanese, I urge you to continue to support all medical professionals: doctors, nurses, and other caregivers. I urge you also to practice social distancing in public places and to avoid crowds, ceremonies including funerals and large gatherings.

I urge also that persons remain calm and implement all guidelines relating to personal hygiene and infection prevention and control.

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