Today, 11th April, marks one month since COVID-19 claimed the life of the first Guyanese on local soil. Six Guyanese have now died, forty-five have been confirmed as having been infected, thirty-one are in isolation, thirteen are in quarantine and eight persons have since recovered. I was happy to learn of the recovery of the eight persons who tested positive for COVID-19, initially. I wish the other infected persons a speedy and complete recovery.

The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a pernicious killer which at present pervades the earth, affecting populations regardless of race, region, religion, or economic status. Guyana has not been spared. We have embarked on a path of public health but there is a difficult journey ahead before we defeat the disease.

The effort to fight this disease requires unprecedented expenditure and outlay of resources to enable identification and testing, isolation, protection and treatment. We are becoming better prepared to provide proper personal protective equipment for the medical staff doing the testing and treatment tests and the materials and equipment such as beds, respirators and ventilators for those who become critically afflicted. The capacity for infrastructural and institutional accommodation is being expanded.

Persons who become ill should have access to the best care in the shortest possible time, to ensure their recovery and rehabilitation. The national focus, understandably, is on those who have been infected and afflicted.

I ask you, however, to think tenderly of our public health professionals and service providers, that is to say, our doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and all other supporting staff – medical and non-medical – who are providing the required care for those in distress.

Public health practitioners are on the front line of protecting those stricken by the disease. They have been working tirelessly through this very difficult situation to provide quality healthcare to those who have been infected and afflicted. Everyone in the public health system has played a vital part in the fight against this disease.

The public has been instructed to ‘stay at home’, in physical isolation, but our health professionals are required to leave their homes and families, daily, to work in the health centres, hospitals quarantine stations and other institutions do their part to combat the disease. Every day, they report for duty to work in conditions that could be dangerous to their own health and safety. Let us all think about these public servants and employees in private institutions who are putting their lives on the line.

We all should ponder their personal, physical, psychological and emotional needs and that, day after day, they are pressed beyond measure to deal with so much human suffering. We should not take their service for granted.

I call on all Guyanese to continue to support our frontline workers. They are the sinews of our health services. We must protect and respect them. We are eternally grateful for their exertions during these trying times. Their dedication is valued.

The public health system and medical staff cannot overcome this disease on their own. They need the support of the entire population. I implore all Guyanese and residents to adhere to the emergency measures which have been promulgated by the Ministry of Public Health and published by the Government in the Official Gazette.

I iterate the need for all citizens, in all parts of the country, to adopt the advisories, especially:

– Avoidance of leaving home;
– Avoidance of gatherings of more than five persons;
– Avoidance of visiting sick persons;
– Avoidance of touching other persons;
– Avoidance of coughing and sneezing in the presence of other persons;
– Avoidance of touching parts of your own faces; and
– Adoption of the habit of washing of hands frequently and thoroughly in water.

I ask also that people of faith join me in prayer, from the comfort of their homes, at this sacred Easter Festival for the safety and well-being of our unsung doctors and nurses and other health workers. I extend my sincere sympathy to the families of those who have succumbed to COVID-19.

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