COVID-19 and Election in Guyana: June 16 Situation Report (with June 19 Update)

COVID-19

  • The present COVID-19 status in Guyana as of June 15th is 183 confirmed cases, with 99 recoveries, 24 persons placed under institutional quarantine, and 12 deaths to date. There remain 88 active cases in the country.
  • To date, a total of 1959 persons have been tested in country, with 1800 of those wielding negative results. This indicates a 8.2% infection rate from the tested dataset. In Guyana 35% of the confirmed 159 cases have been asymptomatic.
  • There is a continued national curfew from 6am to 6pm, enforcement of which has been largely adhered to in the main streets of the capital. Strict enforcement in villages and areas outside of the capital remains problematic for security services.
  • There has been some reopening of essential government departments such as the commercial registry and other public-facing administrative bodies. Schools were reopened on the 15th June for students writing the NGSA, CSEC and CAPE exams on Monday, however there has been a concerted effort to ensure access to online materials to aid reduce the amount of students required to prepare in person at the numerous different educational institutions in the country.
  • June 19 Update:
    • A Press Statement regarding the extension of COVID 19 measures was released by the Ministry of Health on June 17th, reiterating that the Stay At Home & 6pm – 6am curfew order was still in enforcement up until July 2nd. The Cheddi Jagan International and Eugene F. Correia International Airports shall remain closed to all international flights except for outgoing flights, cargo flights, medical evacuation flights, technical stops for fuel only and special authorised flights.
    • There were 12 new cases of COVID 19 from 32 national tests announced on June 16th, and an additional 12 new cases of COVID confirmed from 42 tests conducted in Region 1 (Letham, bordering Brazil) on 17th June. An additional 6 cases were announced (for a weekly total of 30) on June 18th within a Primary School in Region 1 as Pupils returned this week in preparation for exams. Amid relatively small protests concerning the elections this week, police announced they would be pressing charges against attendees for contravening the existing COVID measures of no public gatherings in numbers larger than groups of five.

International Travel

  • On the 8th of June The Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) held a “Pathway to Clear Skies” conference that outlined a four phase plan to reopen Guyana’s airports.
    Director General of the GCAA, Lt. Col. (ret’d) Egbert Field, noted that the reopening of these important ports would depend on the state of readiness by the other international airports where flights for Guyana originates.
  • The plans proposed the first phase to run for the remainder of June allowing the facilitation of repatriation flights, special authorised flights, outgoing flights, technical stops, medevac flights, training and the development of Regulations and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for aviation personnel and aircraft operators.
  • During this period Caribbean Airlines is in talks with the Government of Guyana and the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority regarding the repatriation of Guyana nationals who have been stranded across the Caribbean region since the closure of borders due COVID-19.
  • The second phase is scheduled to start from July 1st to July 31, with the reopening of the airports for limited flights for incoming citizens, permanent residents, international workers, diplomats and international agencies.
  • More details surrounding the GCAA plans can be found on the GCAA website.

Domestic Travel

  • We advise that business persons who have remained in country continue to heed the Ministry of Health’s guideline and limit their travel to purely essential travel only. While traffic has resumed to circa 40% in the capital during the daytime, public transport remains an increased security risk and virus risk for ex pats, and we would recommend commuters adhere to the guidelines set out in our recent webinar.

Elections

  • The official 2020 National Election recount concluded on the 7th June. The final numerical recount as certified by the Guyana Elections Commission was concluded on the 9th June, indicating a Peoples Progress Party Civil lead of just over 15,000 votes.
  • As the Gazetted order that governed the recount process stipulated an audit of the related documents relevant to each ballot box – there has been strong allegations from the incumbent APNU/AFC Coalition of irregularities in the electoral process, which it is claiming amount to electoral fraud to the degree that they view the 2020 elections as lacking credibility. A view iterated by both President Granger and Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan over the weekend in public press statements.
  • As per the agreed framework for the recount process, the CARICOM observer team, the only international body approved by the Administration to oversee the recount process, produced its Observer Report which is to be reviewed by the Guyana Elections Commission (GEOCOM).
  • The CARICOM report acknowledged that while there were some “defects” in the recount, it did not witness anything which would render the recount and by extension, the casting of the ballots on March 2, so “grievously deficient procedural or technical, (despite some irregularities) or sufficiently deficient to have thwarted the will of the people, and consequently preventing the election results and its declaration by GECOM from reflecting the will of the voters.”
  • The CARICOM report starkly contrasted with the report submitted by the Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield to GECOM, in which he stated that the electoral process could not be deemed fair and credible due to the high amount of procedural irregularities entailed.
  • Immediately after the details of the CARICOM report were made known to the public, there were calls from both the OAS and the Commonwealth Secretariat for the incumbent administration to accept the results of the National Recount.
  • As of June 15th the Coalition firmly alleges electoral fraud, predicated on missing ballot box documentation from polling stations on the East Coast of Guyana. They state this missing documentation would have a significant impact on the amount of votes cast in Region 4, Georgetown the capital of the country.
  • A declaration is due to be made on June 16th by the Chair of the Guyana Elections Commissions, Claudette Singh (pictured above left, with Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield), which will formally appoint the President and announce the winner of the 2020 elections. In a press release she did not have the authority to invalidate the election. We infer that this paves the way for a PPP victory.
  • There are widespread concerns of the high potential for public unrest in the event of either a final declaration being made or the prospect of a nullification of the recount process as alluded to within the GEOCOMS CEO’s report.
  • June 19 Update:
    • Despite CARICOM’s indirect endorsement of a PPP electoral vistory and Claudette Singh’s demurral, the coalition continues to fight against the likely result. On Thursday their two GECOM representatives no-showed a GECOM meeting, and a motion to block the declaration of a result was filed with the Court of Appeal. The mere filing of the motion — as opposed to a court order — was enough to discourage GECOM from filing their final report. With the order passed later in the day, a hearing was confirmed at the Court of Appeal for 1300 June 19th.
    • The partisan dispute thus continues, and there are increased fears that should Court uphold the motion tension and political unresolved will remain in country without either a Caribbean Court of Justice judgement or international intervention. The prospect of either a peaceful transition between the two parties, or any form of inclusive governance in a new Administration, remains highly unlikely.
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