The usually bright, beautiful and buzzing town of Lethem in Region 9 of Guyana, South America is facing a bleak future with the advent of the much dreaded coronavirus. So far, there has been no confirmed case of the coronavirus in Region 9, but the global pandemic has already exerted a negative effect on the town. Of the estimated 25 Chinese stores in Lethem, only about 3 were open for business on the 16th and 17th of March.
Most Brazilian and locally owned businesses were open in Lethem since the start of the week, with the exception of one or two. Most restaurants and hotels were observed to be functioning as usual. In addition, the two commercial banks, Republic Bank and GBTI, were operating under normal working hours.
However, the 20 Chinese stores which closed their doors to the public this week employs an estimated total of 200 residents – and a closure naturally serves a severe blow to the general economy as well as people’s personal lives.
This publication has not interviewed any proprietors of the closed stores, however, it is speculated that the sudden halt in Brazilian visitors may have been the driving factor behind the decision to close. Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, Brazilian shoppers have been more and more reluctant to cross the border into Guyana. This reluctance became more pronounced after Georgetown reported its first 3 confirmed cases of the coronavirus.
The Lethem economy is powered in part by Brazilians coming over to purchase cheap Chinese products – on a large part too. On average days, about 500 Brazilian vehicles cross over from neighboring Brazil into Lethem to purchase cheap Chinese products which are not readily available in Brazil. However, since Monday, there were as little as 5 Brazilian vehicles per day coming over to Lethem.