Dear GLP Family,
We hope you’re all doing well during this unprecedented time of the Coronavirus pandemic. Many of you have been asking about us and what is happening in Guatemala. This curious time has us all feeling separated and disconnected as many of us take to working from our home offices. And yet at the same time, it makes us feel strangely connected to the whole world, given that all of us, no matter what country, race, or economic status, are affected by this new reality. Thank you for your concerns and curiosity. Here are some recent highlights of what’s new in Guatemala as of March 18th:
- The first confirmed case of the Coronavirus was found on Friday, March 13th. There are currently six confirmed cases. The Ministry of Health and Social Assistance is leading case follow-up and statistics coordination in close coordination with the president.
- Public and private schools are closed for three weeks, as of March 16th.
- Foreigners are prohibited from entering the country and there will be obligatory quarantine for any national returning to the country.
- Currently, there are an estimated 3,000 tourists within Guatemala and they have 15 days to remain in the country.
- Sporting, cultural, and in-person religious activities are prohibited.
- Public transportation is suspended (e.g. buses).
- Shopping centers are closed.
- Hoarding of basic goods and medicines is prohibited.
- Dining in at restaurants is also prohibited.
- Work is prohibited in private sector and certain governmental agencies, except for basic services or unless you have written permission. (Telecommuting is encouraged.) Grocery stores, markets, small food stores, delivery and drive-thru restaurants, pharmacies, and gas stations should remain open. Telecommunication, energy, and agricultural companies, among other essential services should remain operating.
Guatemala was fortunate to be one of the later countries with any confirmed cases, and now the country is acting decisively with many restrictive measures to try to slow the acceleration curve of infections. (Perhaps this is not surprising, given that the newly elected president is a physician.) Right now, individuals that have tested positive and those that were on flights from high-exposure areas are being held in strict in-home quarantine. Additionally, the government has designated the Villa Nueva Hospital (just south of Guatemala City) especially for COVID-19 cases and a conference center (Parque de la Industria) is being set up as a temporary hospital to receive cases (up to 3,000 people).
We at the Guatemala Literacy Project are first and foremost assuring the safety of our staff, schools, and students. We are taking this time to plan and prepare for future teacher trainings, classroom coaching, and program activities when things return to normal, and our staff is working on professional development.
We are deeply conscious of how this pandemic may be affecting both the rural and urban poor of Guatemala, many of whom live on subsistence wages, and do not have sufficient savings to cover basic food and medicine. Many rural settings have the advantage of not being densely populated areas, and have access to food, and we hope this minimizes any community spread. Also, as we enter this 3rd week of March, we move into the warmest time of the year, and we can only hope that that helps in mitigating the spread of the Coronavirus.
Yet again with a health situation and pandemic like COVID-19, we see how important education is for all of us ― in being able to READ information that is shared, to understand the situation, the medical and health issues, to think critically about the different information that we receive, and to interpret the recommendations we are given. We know that more education translates directly to improved resilience in events like natural disasters and pandemics. We are inspired to continue the work that the GLP, and our friends and partners make possible in educating the marginalized youth in Guatemala.
More than ever, we are realizing that we live in a global community and each of us truly plays a part in our larger world. Our hope is that some good will come out of all of this ― more connectedness, more empathy, and a deeper care for the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters.
Thank you for your friendship, concern, and support,
Joe, Rony, Howard, and the whole GLP Team