Days after the opposition, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), created the National Multi-stakeholders’ Response Forum (NMRF), the forum’s Health Sub-Committee has now launched the Doctorsonline24hours on COVID-19 Facebook page which allows members of the public to seek answers and get advice from medical doctors.
The NMRF reported that in the last 48 hours, several hundreds have used this account. In addition, several social media groups have been set up which allow Guyanese health professionals to interact with colleagues in other parts of the world.
The PPP/C said it took the decision to create the forum after it decided that it could not rely on the government to take such an “urgent national comprehensive approach” in order to protect the population, reduce transmission, save lives, protect health workers and offer relief to the poor and vulnerable, working people and self-employed, and the business community from COVID-19.
“This broad-based voluntary body will advocate and introduce measures, where possible – as it is not a governmental body – to inform and educate our people, improve their access to services, reduce the level of transmission, protect our people, mobilise badly needed resources measures, protect health workers, and address social, economic, financial relief to our people. There are several sub-committees functioning that are working to address these issues,” the body said.
The Forum will be conducted in the main in a virtual setting in order to avoid physical contact.
The body is recommending two key interventions to reduce the spread of COVID-19. In addition to social distancing of 6 feet, frequent hand washing/sanitizing, and sanitizing surfaces, the Forum is calling for a national policy of self-isolation/ stay at home across the country.
This means that only essential services will continue and that individuals would leave home infrequently for food, pharmaceuticals or money.
Therefore all bars, rum shops, restaurants (exclude take out service), and the retail sector should be closed; all non-essential staff in the public sector be allowed to stay home with pay.
Further, ATMs, pharmacies, supermarkets, bakeries and markets should continue to function; all staff in the public or private sector who are considered essential and who have to continue to work must wear face masks at all times including police, prisoners and prison staff, those in homes for the elderly and staff, Post Offices, minibus drivers, boat men, sailors, market vendors, etc.
Also, the body is calling for an “everyone wears a mask campaign”, which is being touted by Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine, Dr Zulfikar Bux.
“Let’s start the ‘everyone wears a mask campaign’ in Guyana. Wear a Facemask when you go out and encourage others to do it,” the body said.
It has also emphasised that the “limited” Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs) stocks must be used only in the health sector, especially by those on the frontline.
The Forum will also be issuing guidelines on how to wear face masks safely. These will be posted on the Doctorsonline24hrs Facebook account shortly.
To kick start this effort, the Forum has received donations of fabric to commence the production of face masks which will be given out free.
“We also hope that other organizations, including individual tailors and seamstresses will sew these face masks in different communities. In interior areas, we shall also communicate with the Toshaos to see in what way they can also make their own face masks.”
The Forum is also exploring ways of obtaining scarce resources for the health sector.