Credit: Image by Ronny K from Pixabay

A worrying six COVID-19 deaths in a single day over the weekend—the highest so far—in Caribbean Community headquarter nation Guyana have forced local authorities to invest more energy into clamping down on large public gatherings and to issue warnings about increased prosecution of offenders, curfew breakers in particular.

The six have taken the local death toll to 243 as the work week started, making it proportionately one of the highest in the bloc of 15 nations.

Health Minister Frank Anthony says authorities will be sending more samples to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in Trinidad to determine whether a more deadly Brazilian strain is active in neighboring Guyana or to find out what phenomenon explains the rise in deaths, other than stepped up testing and detection of infected persons.

Guyana recently closed its more than 1,000 mile border with its southwestern neighbor, Brazil, and banned flights and other forms of commercial contacts with the South American giant where hundreds are dying each day. Most of Guyana’s contacts with Brazil have to do with northern Brazilian states like Roraima and Amazonia which are close to the Guyana border and account for much of the bilateral trade, tourism, family contact and sporting activities.

Anthony says larger numbers of police and soldiers now man the border Takatu Bridge preventing people from crossing into Guyana, while federal police on the Brazilian side are also working closely with local authorities.

The problem is that neither country is able to properly monitor such a long and sometimes treacherous border crossing, and authorities are finding it tough to prevent people with family and employment responsibilities on either side from travelling as they are used to.

The larger than usual death toll in Guyana comes as that country and neighboring regional bloc members continue to struggle to access large enough doses of vaccines to inoculate their populations and to build herd immunity in the coming months.

Relatively small amounts have been accessed by the region from the international umbrella Covax system while additional amounts have come from China and Russia.

Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley said the island was expecting 34,000 AstraZeneca doses this week as the island rushes to build her immunity and to get its tourism sector back on track. Barbados was among the first in the grouping to receive a large batch from India. It shared a decent portion with its Caribbean neighbors who in turn have done the same when they are able to access batches from western suppliers.

Further north in The Bahamas, the government said that 33,000 units arrived at the weekend. This is in addition to 20,000 units it accessed last month. Others like Trinidad and Suriname as well as Jamaica are also scrambling to acquire large enough amounts to organize mass vaccination campaigns.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Gaston Browne of Antigua says he is awaiting responses from Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain and President Joe Biden of the U.S. to his recent request for help for the region to access relatively large amounts of vaccines for the region. He has sent formal letters to both.