Georgetown, Guyana (April 26, 2020): President David Granger’s establishment of National Coronavirus Disease Task Force (NCTF) Executive Secretariat and his appointment of Messrs. Joseph Harmon, Lawrence Paul, and Mark Archer are aimed at strengthening further the country’s fight against the dreaded disease.

All three executives possess expertise that is vital to the country’s fight against the disease. Their skills are necessary to help speed up the tempo on the COVID-19 remediation campaign, and the Task Force, in its infancy, will benefit significantly from the exceptional logistical and planning skills that the trio can bring to bear.

All three executives were serving in different departments of the Ministry of the Presidency (MoTP). They will retain their entitlements and emoluments.

Mr. Joseph Harmon, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the NCTF, brings years of experience and is the Co-operative Republic of Guyana’s first Minister of State in the MoTP since 2015.

Mr. Harmon, an attorney-at-law and retired Lieutenant Colonel of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), has experience in disaster risk management and has worked over the years with the Civil Defence Commission (CDC).

President Granger explained that he was confident in Mr. Harmon’s organisational and operational competence and managerial experience, which make him best suited for the post of CEO.

He described him as a team player who has a clear vision of the objectives and urgency of the counter COVID-19 campaign and a commitment to overcome the challenges facing the country at this time. The CEO has led the Government on previous crises and emergencies and is familiar with the mechanisms which have to be effected to ensure that Guyana is capable of addressing the effects of the COVID-19 disease. He is skilled at mobilising and managing manpower and material resources.

President Granger said the CEO’s first job will be to establish a permanent National Task Force Secretariat; assign permanent staff to manage the national campaign; create preventive measures against the disease to safeguard citizens’ health and collaborate with regional task forces and stakeholders to safeguard citizens’ health.

The CEO is responsible for directing the NCTF operations and initiating all important logistics measures necessary to prevent the disease from spreading further; directing rapid responses to unexpected and emergency incidents; developing short-term plans for disease prevention and safety of the people and communicating directly with agencies, ministries, regional task forces, agencies and stakeholders.

The CEO is tasked also with the dissemination of accurate information with regard to COVID-19 to the public.

President Granger has emphasised repeatedly the need for Guyana to respond with alacrity to the pandemic. He established the NCTF and on 16th March 2020, issued directions under the Public Health Ordinance (Cap.145) and international standard to prevent and control the spread of the disease and 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.

On Friday, the President announced also the secondment of Colonel (ret’d) Lawrence Paul, Senior Executive Director of the Bertram Collins College of the Public Service. Dr. Mark Kirton has since assumed Colonel Paul’s post.

Colonel Paul served as Deputy Chief of Staff of the GDF. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Public Management from the University of Guyana and a Master’s degree in National Resource Strategy from the National Defence University in Washington DC.

Mr. Mark Archer, former Director of the Public Information and Press Service (PIPS) Unit has also been seconded to the NTCF on a full-time basis. Mr. Archer, who has three decades of experience as a medical professional at the clinical, research and managerial levels said he is pleased to be part of the “very important Task Force”.

“My training is in medical technology and pharmacology, but I am not on this Task Force in a clinical capacity. I am here because I think I have the experience and knowledge to assist in the national effort to combat this disease. The Ministry of Public Health has professionals who are capable to test, track and treat. I will be assisting in the mobilisation of resources and helping to put plans together; short, medium and long-term plans for disease prevention and safety of the people,” Mr. Archer said.

Mr. Archer explained that although he is a trained medical professional, he believes that his focus will be on planning, managing and coordinating, skills which he thinks are most needed in the operationalisation of the NCTF.

He told PIPS that President Granger’s request for him to be a member of the Task Force did not surprise him. “The President was aware of my interest and my experience and the fact that I was ready to be a part of the fight against this disease. I have worked with Mr. [Joseph] Harmon before and I was anxious to get started,” he said.

Mr. Archer is assisting Mr. Harmon with getting the NTCF Secretariat staffed so it can be functional in the shortest possible time.

On Saturday, the CEO and Messrs. Archer and Paul visited the National Gymnasium which will now be used as a storage, packaging and distribution centre for the items currently stored in containers at the CDC’s offices.

It was both the experience of the trio and the need to advance the anti-COVID-19 campaign that influenced the President’s decision to appoint them to the NCTF. The decision is purely administrative.

COVID-19 is a global pandemic which requires the highest-level of attention. The NTCF will be drawing on the experiences of a cadre of persons who are well poised to help Guyana fight the disease.

The Ministry of Public Health has reported that Guyana has 74 confirmed cases of COVID-19 inclusive of eight deaths. Twelve persons have been recovered from the virus. A total of 455 persons have been tested for COVID-19 with 381 of those testing negative for the disease. 

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