Georgetown, Guyana – (April 16, 2020) Director General, Ministry of the Presidency, Mr. Joseph Harmon has announced that the Government, through the Civil Defence Commission (CDC) will put new measures in place to strengthen its social relief response to the coronavirus COVID-19 disease, to ensure that every vulnerable person is assisted.
Mr. Harmon also said the Government is prepared to consider stronger enforcement of the COVID-19 Emergency Measures, if citizens continue to flout those guidelines.
The Director General made these announcements at a press briefing held, this morning, at the CDC headquarters. He has assumed chairmanship of the Sub Committee of the National Task Force on COVID-19, with responsibility for the CDC and the coordination of the social relief measures.
Mr. Harmon noted that the Task Force held a meeting yesterday, Wednesday, April 15, 2020 and took the decision that based on the current projections and timelines for the COVID-19; it would be better to undertake long term solutions now. In this regard, it was determined that the current social relief efforts were among the short-term solutions and needed to be reworked.
“The CDC is a Commission that responds to an emergency. Invariably those emergencies are usually of a short-term basis and so immediately maybe after a flood, a fire or some other disaster, the CDC would go and they would make an assessment of what is needed, and they respond. This situation is a little different because it is likely that it will not be an immediate impact situation, but a long-term matter. We took the view that this is going to be a long-term matter and therefore a one-time distribution would not suffice because in the long run, someone who receives a package in April would look forward to receiving a package in June and July and onwards. We have thought it necessary to look at this matter in a strategic way and therefore, what we have asked is that the distribution be put on pause in the way it was going. We are going to put a system in place that identifies ... the vulnerable,” he said.
The Director General noted that while in the past, the Ministry of Social Protection would have recorded the persons who are vulnerable; the situation has changed since there are now persons who have been dismissed or cannot leave their homes in the current circumstances.
“We had lists of the vulnerable in the past but in this pandemic, we have persons who weren’t vulnerable but have become vulnerable now. There are persons who have lost their livelihoods because of the restrictions, persons have been dismissed, persons who are at home and cannot move. We are putting in place now arrangements that will facilitate distribution of items and facilitate the distribution of cheques or food vouchers to allow those persons to benefit. We have set up a database for persons who are affected to register there. Once that is done, the Ministry of Social Protection will do a check and then we will make a determination on who gets hampers and cheques or food vouchers. We are implementing a different approach since we believe it is going to be for a longer period and therefore, we have to increase the capacity of the CDC to manage an operation for a longer period and one that is across the country,” he explained.
Director General Harmon also noted that persons appear to be flouting the curfew and other precautionary measures that the Government had put in place and if the number infections continues to climb, the Government will consider stronger enforcement measures.
“It seems that when I look at the figures now, that the curve is still going in an upward direction and therefore, we must ensure that we take those measures that are necessary to flatten the curve. While we are still using what I would call a soft stem approach, I believe that we are coming to the time where we will have to be strong on the enforcement measures with respect to the curfew. This COVID-19 is not a joke and some people are still of the view that it is not going to affect them. The numbers are clear. Many homes in this country are in mourning. Let us not take this as a joke. We have to take all the necessary precautions to ensure that curve doesn’t go upwards,” he said.
Additionally, Mr. Harmon has called for increased collaboration and cooperation among stakeholders, noting that entire country is affected by the disease, and therefore, all hands are welcomed on deck. He also thanked the Private Sector for their contributions to the relief efforts.