Guyana and the world are enduring the excruciating effects of the Novel CoronavirusDisease 2019 (COVID-19). Twelve of our citizens have died. The competence of our public health workerscontributed to the recovery of sixty-seven persons and to the continued care of one hundred and fifty confirmed cases.

I join the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in expressing appreciation for our public health workers’ efforts. I iterate the nation’s gratitude to those who demonstrate their steadfast and selfless service every day.

I joined the rest of the nation to celebrate International Nurses Day on 12th May 2020, recalling the efforts and exertions of our public health workers and nurses in extending the best care to our citizens. Their expertise and performance are vital to our plan to overcome the scourge of COVID-19 which has affected our society, economy and personal behaviour so profoundly.

Public health workers face many personal, physical and psychological challenges. Some must travel long distances on foot, by road or in boats by river, or by light aircraft and endure the anxiety of being away from their families for long periods as they perform their duties in the public health system.

The Government is obliged to ensure that, despite the challenges that citizens encounter at this time, robust systems are implemented to ensure that we combat this pandemic and mitigate its negative impact on the population.

The Government has implemented several initiatives to preserve Public Health, provide Public Services and ensure Public Security. It has established the National COVID-19Task Force (NCTF)–staffed by competent medical, administrative officials and professionals–to implement the National Action Plan in response to COVID-19 by ensuring the enforcement of robust systems to prevent the spread of the infection and to limit the effects of the disease on the nation.

The Government issued subsidiary legislation under the Public Health Ordinance on 16th March enabling the Minister of Public Health to implement immediate measures to prevent and control COVID-19. It promulgated a ‘National Response’ to the pandemic and published ‘Emergency Measures’on 3rd April.

I addressed the nation on 11th April 2020 appealing to everyone 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.

The Government is executing, daily, its draft ‘Plan of Action for Public Health’, countrywide,by advancing several schemes. These include:

– Public Administration Work Scheme (PAWS),which will ensure that state agencies continue to work uninterruptedly and remotely when necessary,to maintain public services;
-Public Education Remote Learning-Teaching Scheme (PERLS),toensure the continued delivery of curriculum instruction by remote and distance learning modalities to benefit nearly 170,000 children;
-Public Enforcement and Response Measures (PERM), by the law-enforcement agencies to ensure countrywide compliance with emergency measures;

-Rural Entrepreneurial Agricultural Project (REAP),to augment local food security and maintain good nutrition by expanding food production and introducing new farming techniques;
– Coordinating Agency for Small Enterprise (CASE),aimed at supporting agro-processing, farming and marketing for increased employment for young people;
– Social Protection Implementation Measures (SPIM),to provide relief and support for the aged, infirm and persons in difficult circumstances;
-Social Cohesion and Arts Renewal Scheme (SCARS),to maintain interest in arts and culture, highlighting our national festivals –such as Independence Day celebrations;
– National Implementation Scheme for Interconnectivity (NISI),to expand its information and communication technology network to support ministries and agenciesto support law enforcement and to disseminate public information.

The Government has established a robust framework of Regional Emergency Executive Public Health Committees (REEPH) as coordinating mechanisms to assist public health workers to respond rapidly to cases and access necessary materials and equipment by vigorously testing, tracing and treating persons. It is establishing a centre for disease prevention and control at Liliendaal to supportour public health care system and to enhance our preparedness for future occurrences.

The Government appreciatesthe sterling service of medical practitioners in providing care and supporting the people’s wellness. Their diligence and dedication assure us continuously of their commitment.Everyone – civil society, non-governmental organisations, religious groups, trade unions and government ministries and agencies – has a part to play to assist the efforts of our healthcare workers to reduce the rate of infection and overcome this dreaded disease.

I take this opportunity, now, to appeal toeveryone, everywhere in the country, to adopt the personal measures, especially:
– avoidance of leaving home;
– avoidance of visiting sick persons;
– avoidance of touching other persons;
– avoidance of touching parts of your faces;
– avoidance of gatherings of more than five persons;
– avoidance of coughing and sneezing in the presence of other persons; and
– adoption of the habit of washing hands frequently and thoroughly in water.

The dreaded COVID-19 disease has affected us all regardless of race, religion, region of residence or social rank. We are committed to supporting our public health workers and to fighting this disease together.

I express, again, the nation’s gratitude to our public health workers who are on the frontline of this pandemic.

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