Two southern Caribbean Community countries, Guyana and neighboring Trinidad, are in the throes of the continuing battle against the COVID-19 pandemic with increasing numbers of positive cases and a steady hike in the number of hospitalizations and deaths in recent months. The increase in infections and deaths have forced authorities in Trinidad, for example, to issue yet another national lockdown order that the business community fears would now be too crippling this time for them to ride out.
In Guyana, 65 deaths in April—the highest on record so far for any single month—have prompted calls from various quarters for either a second lockdown or more stringent action by government to arrest the spike in daily infections but the administration of President Irfaan Ali is yet to act and has signaled a reluctance to temporarily shut down the country.
The two are among the worst affected in the 15-member regional grouping, but Trinidad’s situation is compounded, as well, by a serious shortage of vaccines to help build herd immunity. No shipment of any significance is expected before the end of the month Prime Minister Keith Rowley said at the weekend even as he has just recovered from infection from the virus.
Authorities there say the twin island republic with Tobago is also being undone by its porous coastline with Venezuela as dozens of illegals seeking a better life in Trinidad are reaching ashore each week without negative PCR tests or having to subject themselves to testing on arrival and or isolation until their status is determined.
Security Minister Fitz Hinds says security forces will crackdown while doing a better job monitoring the seven mile stretch of water separating Trinidad from the South American coast.
For both countries, April was the month that health authorities recorded the highest numbers of infections and deaths. Guyana’s death toll as of Monday of this week reached 299 as fatalities average just over two daily. Total infections on record reached 13,500.
In Trinidad which has largely been in lockdown or restricted activity status since March of last year 169 people have died so far. Authorities say they were startled one day last week when 326 cases were penciled in a single day, prompting the latest lockdown. The island’s main airports have been closed for the last 14 months so officials are blaming people who sneak into the country illegally for bringing the deadly Brazilian strain to the island. Both governments have blamed irresponsible behavior by citizens during the recent Easter holiday break for the latest spikes in cases and deaths.
Over the weekend, Guyana’s President Ali said he had ordered the police and the military to increase the number of teams they have on the ground enforcing compliance.
“We thought good sense would have prevailed but it hasn’t from the population in the way they treat the pandemic,” Ali said. “The lives of people matter.”
For his part, PM Rowley said he is aware the latest measures will affect businesses and social life, noting that the situation was getting out of hand.
“The police will be cracking down on house parties, family gatherings, liming by a house next to a bar and those kinds of things. The already overworked police will go one step further and where they believe there are activities taking place which are inimical to the public interest,”
Rowley said as he closed gyms, restaurants, parks, beaches and a host of other places. “Ministries and state agencies will rotate staff to lessen chances of infections,” Rowley said.
The island is also buying new patrol ships and drones to monitor its marine borders, fearing the possibility of being overwhelmed by illegals arriving across the marine strait.