In light of coronavirus being detected in Indigenous communities across the country, the South Rupununi District Council (SRDC) in Region Nine (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo) has ordered complete lockdown for 21 villages in that district.
According to the SRDC, the lockdown took effect from Wednesday last with
the aim of stopping the spread of the virus. The decision on the
drastic measure is in light of the Government’s refusal to suspend
mining in the district.
“Indeed, our efforts have been stymied by the Government’s continued refusal to remove mining from its list of essential services and by its interventions on behalf of miners which have allowed them to continue to traverse our territory, threatening and challenging our gatekeepers,” the District Council complained.
As a result, the SRDC underscored that they have entered into the period of lockdown, with the arrangements of the Village Councils to facilitate the delivery of food and other essential items to all communities. Further efforts are being made to facilitate essential travel into the Marudi mines.
South Rupununi villages have also implemented measures such as the 6 pm to 6 am curfew that will remain in place until further notice.
“Now more than ever, we demand that the Government and regional authorities support our decisions and measures to protect our people from the spread of this deadly virus,” the Council pleaded.
Following the outbreak earlier this year, the District Council had blocked several illegal crossings along the Guyana-Brazil border, in order to reinforce the porous border.
“The inadequate healthcare systems and supplies in our region leave our people extremely vulnerable to disease, particularly this novel coronavirus,” the SRDC said.
As such, several efforts were made to contact the National COVID-19 Task Force, asking for mining activities in Region Nine to be suspended. However, those efforts have proven futile.
“The Government’s prioritisation of interests such as mining is compounded by the inadequacy of the public health response to this global pandemic,” the Indigenous leaders said, adding that there have been cases where persons take weeks to get tested after a report was made and then several days to receive their results.
“We note with concern that after the announcement of the confirmed cases in our communities, it took more than 48 hours before patients were transported to the hospital in Lethem. We also note that the inadequate supply of testing kits for Region 9 only allows for persons with severe symptoms to be tested,” the Council said.
Assistance to monitor the border crossings, and access to medical equipment and supplies to the South Rupununi communities were also requested by the SRDC but those pleas went unanswered. The monitoring of the crossings is aimed at preventing the entry of persons who are not residents.
In a statement, the SRDC said: “To date, we have received little to no response to our concerns and pleas for assistance. Our greatest threat remains the vast open border the South Rupununi shares with Brazil.”
Just a few days ago, officials from the Iwokrama Rainforest expressed deep concern about operators who are transporting illegal persons who most likely came from Brazil into Guyana.
They explained that on June 13, two buses passed with groups of Brazilians, while on July 6, 2020, at the ranger station at Corkwood, lawmen found three illegal Brazilians on a bus. A few days later, two persons were caught coming out of one of Iwokrama trails, one Brazilian and one Guyanese.
Iwokrama staffers have recently unearthed another secret way of bypassing the police at Corkwood and Kurupukari. Brazil, to date, has confirmed over 2 million cases of COVID-19 and has recorded over 76,000 deaths.
Region Nine recorded its first case after patients travelled from Brazil.