Drone technology helping border-monitoring efforts

DRONES are being used as part of the slew of measures to deter illegal crossings at the Guyana/Brazil border in Region Nine (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo) and Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni), amid pervasive concerns over the surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths in Brazil.

According to reports from the CNN, Brazil is currently facing another wave of COVID-19, whereby thousands of persons are daily infected with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes the disease COVID-19). Brazil has also surpassed 330,000 deaths. Exacerbating this situation is that a mutated form of the virus — the P1 variant — has been discovered in this country; this variant is said to be more transmissible, which means that more persons can become infected.

“We’re still apprehensive about the strain (the P1 variant) from Brazil and that is why we have sealed the border to prevent illegal crossings,” Director of the National COVID-19 Task Force (NCTF), Colonel Nazrul Hussain told the Guyana Chronicle on Sunday.

Since March last year, the border between Guyana and Brazil has been closed as part of efforts to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus, and, earlier this year, flights from Brazil ceased. Though these restrictions were instituted, trade has been permitted, but only on Thursdays via the Takutu Bridge, which is the official crossing between the two countries.

The size of the border has allowed persons to travel across using several ‘back track’ routes or illegal crossings. In a previous interview with this newspaper, Colonel Hussain highlighted that Joint Services patrols and checkpoints at the Guyana/Brazil border would be increased in a bid to reduce the importation of COVID-19 cases.

On Sunday, the Colonel posited that the increased presence of the Joint Services has contributed to a decrease in the number of illegal crossings between the two countries, thereby reducing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Furthermore, he noted that drone technology is also being used to help monitoring efforts at the border. Since the Guyana-Brazil border is expansive and quite porous, the Guyana Chronicle was told that monitoring efforts are difficult. The shared border spans about 1,119 kilometres (or about 695 miles).

LIMITED SUCCESS

The Colonel, however, said that the use of the drones has yielded “limited success” thus far, since more human resources are needed to reinforce the monitoring arrangements in various locations.

He also noted that members of the Guyana People’s Militia have been involved in the monitoring exercise. These reserve officers have been engaged in mobile and static patrols.

In January, the Regional Chairman of Region Nine, Brian Allicock, voiced his concerns over the illegal crossings between Guyana and Brazil. Allicock related that many of the illegal crossings occur at night, where, despite the best efforts to patrol the area by the armed forces and community policing groups, travellers are able to “slip through.” He also highlighted that many of the persons who cross illegally travel in “cliques” that allow them to better manoeuvre the border restrictions.

In March, when the Guyana Chronicle travelled to the ‘Deep South’ area in Region Nine, the South Rupununi District Council (SRDC) had already taken steps to ensure that the spread of COVID-19 was mitigated in the region.

In Aishalton and at several other communities, gates were erected at the entrance to the communities to monitor and record travel, allowing the village councils to engage in its own contact tracing, if need be. The gate monitors — which are women from the village — are tasked with recording the name and temperature of each person.

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