Dear Editor,

As COVID-19 deaths reached an alarming number, I sat many days trying to figure how our dear country can better address this crisis.
I think it’s important for us Guyanese to see this pandemic as a national crisis and nothing more. There is nothing political or racial. The Government’s vaccine mandate is similar to that of other countries around the world. The drastic increase in infections due to the Delta variant and a slowdown in vaccinations have pushed many governments to make COVID-19 shots mandatory for its people. Last week, I read that leaders of the seven countries that are part of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) are considering amending their respective constitutions to promote laws requiring their own citizens to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Countries including the USA, Turkmenistan, Poland, Canada, France, to name a few have instituted mandatory vaccination. The Government of Guyana is no different, and I do believe their intention is good. If the government were to remove vaccine mandates (but required as is now the case), that a vaccine passport must be presented to conduct business, then I think people will understand the importance of being vaccinated.
When Guyana received the first set of vaccines through CARICOM, I am sure every Guyanese wanted to be vaccinated. What has changed now? The problem came after the Opposition Leader made a statement about the Sputnik vaccine. Pandemonium broke out. I think what is needed at this time, is the government and the opposition working together, as national leaders, and imploring the importance of citizens being vaccinated. I think the hesitancy is not because citizens mistrust medical science, but rather fraught relations between the state and citizens. We need to unite if we want to eliminate COVID-19.
Every day we hear how many people are dying, how many are hospitalized at Liliendaal, and how many are in the ICU. Recently, Dr. Carpen shared some stats on how many are infected with COVID-19 and are fully vaccinated and those who received the first shot…compared to the majority…over 85 percent who are not vaccinated. While the data was not surprising, it was disheartening to read. Last evening, I read about a couple in the USA who contracted COVID-19 and died within weeks of each other, the sad reality is that five children under the age of seven are now orphans. Right here in Guyana, a mother and a daughter lost their battle with COVID-19, leaving five children behind. If we continue to be irresponsible with our actions, we could end up with many orphans and vulnerable children.
Let’s look at how we can proactively address this situation, I believe the Government should institute either a full lockdown or a partial lockdown, if not, move the curfew to 6 am to 6 pm, close our borders, encourage employers to adopt a rotation system, use our soldiers and police officers to patrol communities and stop large gathering and parties, go back to outdoor dining, enforce the no more than 10 persons gathering and do whatever is necessary to reduce the infection rate. While this is in place, use influencers and popular opinion leaders especially those on social media to promote the science of the vaccine and encourage people to be vaccinated. For citizens, do your own research, don’t listen to propaganda, be aware of misinformation, and visit the CDC and PAHO websites for your information. We are a small population; we can’t afford to lose more of our loved ones to COVID-19. Every death means a child is left without a parent, a mother or father without an offspring, a lost that you will never understand if you have never lost a loved one.
There are many other important matters, like the border issue with Venezuela. I am sure we all read about the Venezuelan government and opposition committing to fight for our dear Essequibo. Why can’t our government and opposition do the same with COVID-19? Don’t be distracted, too much is at stake for Guyana. “Guyana is we own,” let all hands be on deck to protect our country from Venezuela as we do the same to protect each other against COVID-19. I am, and sure all citizens are looking forward to the return to normalcy.

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Yours faithfully
Shaundell Shipley

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