Guyana: Indigenous chiefs maintain they will not let outsiders in their villages

By News Room Guyana

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Shulinab Village in Region Nine

(NEWS ROOM GUYANA) — The toshaos, or village leaders, of several villages in the interior are determined not to let outsiders in to protect their people against the new coronavirus.

“The villages are adamant that no access should be given through their villages and that sentiment has been supported by the Minister of Indigenous People’s affairs,” Regional Executive Officer Carl Parker told the News Room.

Recently, a man who holds Guyanese and Brazilian citizenship crossed the border from Bonfim and was tested positive for the virus at Lethem. He subsequently escaped from the Lethem Hospital and was captured in Brazil, where he has been hospitalised.

The man, Hamlet Da Silva, reportedly visited a number of indigenous communities prior to testing positive for the disease.

The News Room understands that Mr Da Silva worked as a miner and trader.

Mr Da Silva was tested positive on May 11. He was placed under isolation at the Lethem Hospital after he showed signs of COVID-19. He previously was being treated for malaria in neighbouring Brazil.

Hours after receiving his positive results Mr Da Silva managed to escape the facility and were captured in Bonfim, Brazil. The News Room understands that he entered Brazil via an illegal crossing at the border and was captured by the Police there.

After his escape four staff members of the hospital were put under quarantine.

“…family members [of Da Silva] are asked to stay indoors as a precautionary measure,” Mr Parker said.

He further explained, “I know the health authorities they are engaging in contact tracing and base on those contact tracing then we will know for sure where and where this guy went.”

In the past few weeks the villages have been preventing miners from access mining lands due to concerns about the deadly coronavirus disease.

In the gazetted national emergency measures to prevent the spread of the disease, mining operations, production and processing are listed under essential services; however the toshaos are not complying with this order and according to Mr Parker this is supported by the Minister of Indigenous People’s Affairs, Sydney Allicock.

He said the Regional Health Emergency Committee notes the recommendation by the villages and it is still under active consideration “because we have to look at the entire picture socio-economic…everything so we haven’t made a decision as yet.”

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