GUYANA: Government, opposition at odds over new COVID regulation

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Giftland Mall in Guyana (File Photo)

BROOKLYN, NY– Business establishments in Guyana Monday began implementing new measures outlined by the government, including that anyone entering public buildings as well as private businesses and places of worship be vaccinated against the coronavirus (COVID-19), showing proof of a negative COVID-19 test result.

But the opposition has instead called on the government to convene a meeting of all stakeholders to discuss what it described as the “authoritarian” measures and a way forward.

In its September 4, 2021, the government gazetted COVID-19 Order# 193/2021 also noted that where a person is unvaccinated, an appointment will be necessary and that the person must present a negative molecular PCR test taken within seven days of the appointment.

It also said that only negative molecular biological PCR test results from a laboratory approved by the Ministry of Health would be accepted.

Republic Bank (Guyana) says it is enforcing the new measures. While the Giftland Group said that it is planning to adjust to the new restrictions that will take effect on Thursday.

“Despite 99 percent of the Giftland Group employees being vaccinated, this timeline will allow the store owners, employees, mall workers, suppliers, and customers to become fully compliant in the shortest time possible, without disruption of business and to ensure a smooth transition for complete compliance with the new regulations,” the group said in a statement.

“Our patrons are advised to walk with their vaccination cards and a valid ID Card/License to gain entry at the mall, as this will be a primary requirement by law. Step-by-step verification will be done to ensure everyone in the mall adheres to these news rules. If anyone is in possession or produces false documents, they will be sent to the relevant authorities.

We want to thank all of our patrons, employees, and citizens who have made an effort since the vaccine rollout to address misinformation and build trust in the public health systems that deliver the vaccines. We’re all in this together, and only together can we can bring hope to an end the pandemic and to resume to sort of normalcy and livelihood,” it added.

But not all businesses are supportive of the move. Businesses across Linden, the second-largest city after the capital, have closed their doors as the town protests against forced vaccinations.

In addition, the opposition coalition, a Partnership for National Unity and the Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC), has described as authoritarian the latest move by the government.

In a statement, the APNU+AFC said the updated measure runs contrary to all the tenets of personal liberties, including an individual’s freedom of conscience as enshrined in Article 147 of the Guyana Constitution.

Senior Counsel Roysdale Forde, who is also the coalition’s Member of Parliament, said the measure represents the erosion of the rights of the citizens and imposes executive tyranny on the citizens of Guyana.

He said it shows that the ruling People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) remains without a plan to combat the spread of COVID-19 and is implementing ad hoc, arbitrary and whimsical measures designed to advance profiteering and which completely disregard the rights of citizens.

Forde noted that Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries have pointedly refused to adopt measures that the government seeks to implement.

The opposition said it urges the government to rescind the measure it sees as “unconstitutional immediately, and immediately engage in an emergency stakeholders forum to chart a “prudent and responsible” national COVID-19 management plan.

“We call on the PPP to take note of the decision of the Prime Minister of Jamaica, who has engaged the Leader of the Opposition there to meet on the issue of the rampant spread of COVID in that country. We call on the PPP to follow suit post haste.

“The PPP must immediately cease from the wild and reckless approach it has adopted which only benefits its acolytes and financiers and leaves the people of the nation isolated, locked out, and vulnerable,” the APNU+AFC statement said.

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