French Guiana postpones second round of local elections over Covid-19

Authorities in the overseas French territory of Guiana have decided to postpone the second round of municipal elections due to the Covid-19 crisis. The hospitals have also requested more medical assistance to deal with the increasing number of cases.

Territorial collective president of French Guiana, Rodolphe Alexandre made a request to prime minister Edouard Philippe to postpone the second round of local elections scheduled on 28 June, 2020 due to a rise in the number of Covid-19 cases. Jody Amiet / AFP

Meanwhile, Mayotte, despite remaining in 'orange' risk zone, has decided to maintain elections.In his televised address on Sunday 14 June, President Emmanuel Macron announced that all of mainland France would be considered a 'green' zone.

Two overseas territories – Guiana and Mayotte -  however, remain 'orange', as the coronavirus is still active in those areas and some lockdown measures have been applied.

According to French Guiana's branch of the public health agency (ARS), there has been a sharp rise in the number of Covid-19 cases since the end of May, doubling in the space of nine days from 639 cases on 6 June to 1,326 on 15 June.

Of that number, 59 are currently in hospital,11 of them in intensive care. 552 patients have recovered and three people have died so far.

As well as Covid-19, the South American region is also dealing with an epidemic of dengue fever, spread by mosquito bites, a seasonal risk from May to November.

Volunteer medical staff to reinforce teams

The situation is further complicated by the fact that much of Guiana lies on the border with Brazil, a country struggling to contain the virus.

The spokesperson at André-Rosemon hospital in Cayenne explained that volunteer staff had been called in to deal with the increase in cases and they were expecting around 60 volunteers to join the local teams in the coming days.

Among them nurses, and laboratory technicians and x-ray technicians who will have their accomodation and flights paid for by the hospital.

Clara de Bort, the director of ARS in Guiana, already welcomed a group of 70 volunteers who arrived from the mainland last Thursday. Among them, doctors, nurses, assistants and midwives.

"After having witnessed the first wave of Covid 19 on the mainland, it's normal to come and help in Guiana."

The police chief for Guiana, Marc Del Grande, has extended some lockdown measures including a curfew banning outings on Sundays, in a bid to face the crisis.

No religious ceremonies are allowed in towns affected by the virus and access to shops is restricted to one member of each household. Team sports are also banned.

Local elections postponed

Meanwhile, the second round of local elections due to be held on 28 June, has been postponed in Guiana, where seven districts still need to elect a mayor.

The first round of elections took place on 15 March, but the second round on 22 March was postponed due to the Covid-19 lockdown.

Earlier, a team of medical experts in Guiana published a statement saying "maintaining the poll would be unreasonable due to the number of people likely to be gathering at the same time."

Senator for Guiana, Georges Patient wrote on Twitter on Monday, that "the government must take (the situation) into account and quickly".

The president of the territorial collective, Rodolphe Alexandre also sent a letter to Édouard Philippe on 10 June requesting a postponement.

Concerns over Mayotte

Meanwhile in Mayotte, in the Indian Ocean, 2,310 cases of Covid-19 have been reported and 29 deaths, making it the overseas territory with the highest number of cases and deaths since the beginning of the crisis.

42 patients are in hospital, 13 in intensive care.

Christophe Longuet, in charge of the scientific council for the Overseas territories says Mayotte is at least one and half months behind mainland France in terms of the progression on the virus.

Despite this, the second round of elections is to go ahead in Mayotte as planned on 28 June.