Kaieteur News – The National COVID-19 Task Force (NCTF) has suspended air travel from Brazil for the next 30 days in light of the new COVID-19 variant detected there. This ban comes as a part of the government’s increased effort to curb the spread of the new variant here, given Brazil’s proximity and the nation’s lack of testing capacity.
The Director-General of the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority, Egbert Fields, told Kaieteur News yesterday, that the order was given by the NCTF on Thursday, which took immediate effect following their pronouncement.
The new variant that was detected in Brazil earlier this month has been identified as the “P.1” strain, which is said to be highly infectious, meaning that it spreads faster and more easily. It is of three new mutations found between the last quarter of 2020 to January 2021. The other two strains are the B-117 strain found in the United Kingdom and the 501Y.V2 strain, which was identified in South Africa.
Notably, as air travel from the country is now restricted and the Takatu land border crossing in Region Nine (Upper Takatu- Upper Essequibo) which links Guyana to Brazil is also closed, persons from Brazil can no longer travel to Guyana through the official points of entry. The land border has been closed since March last year when Guyana shut down all borders after recording its first case.
Just recently, the Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony, had announced that the land border will remain closed as the government is extremely concerned about the newly detected strain, and a possible spread to Guyana that could overwhelm the health care system. He lamented that it is a health hazard for a country like Guyana, saying, “And if this is more transmissible, then more people are going to get infected and if more people are going to get infected, then we can assume that we will get a percentage of them – a higher percentage of them coming into the hospital needing ICU care.”
Kaieteur News understands that while both land and air travel has been restricted, the weekly exchange of goods between both countries will continue. The exercise, which is monitored by Guyana and Brazil’s health authorities, is usually conducted every Thursday at the Takatu land border.
More joint service patrols will be monitoring the land border to ensure there is no illegal crossing at other unofficial points of entry.
Meanwhile, Guyana is still awaiting the COVID-19 test results from the samples sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency to test for the new variants of the virus. The testing for the new variants requires genetic sequencing according to Minister Anthony, but both the public and private health system lacks such resources.
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