Gov’t vaccination, PCR test requirements for employees are lawful- Fmr. Speaker
Former Speaker of the National Assembly and attorney-at-law Ralph Ramkarran has weighed in on the vaccination requirements instituted by the government and says that these measures are lawful.
As per the Gazetted COVID-19 Emergency Measures (No. 20), which took effect from August 1, 2021, unvaccinated individuals are required to make an appointment before accessing government buildings; this extends to employees.
Unvaccinated employees are also being asked to submit the results of a PCR COVID-19 test- which must be done at an approved private medical facility and costs about $20,000 at least every week to verify that they are not infected with the coronavirus.
Many people, including both vaccinated and unvaccinated workers, have protested these measures stating that they appear to be coercive.
But Ramkarran contends that Guyana’s constitution provides for such measures to be taken since the spread of a contagious disease (in this case, COVID-19) violates the right to safety.
“Article 139(1) of the Constitution provides: ‘No person shall be deprived of his or her personal liberty save as may be authorized by law in any of the following cases, that is to say,….(g) for the purpose of preventing the spread of an infectious or contagious disease,” Ramkarran wrote in his Conversation Tree blog, republished on his website.
He related that no individual has a personal liberty, based on any constitutional right, to enter his/her place of employment. As such, an employer can deprive an employee from entering the place of employment for a variety of lawful reasons.
The attorney-at-law emphasised that Article 139(1) (g) articulates that the State has a right to deprive an employee, or any other person, from entering places of employment, or any other place, to prevent the spread of an infectious or contagious disease.
And, he posited, “The actions of the Government in prohibiting the entry of its employees to their places of employment unless they are vaccinated, or produce a test report at their expense, is lawful.”
Meanwhile, Ramkarran also said that the restrictions imposed on members of the public that prevent those unvaccinated people from accessing services without an appointment is “quite within the government’s remit”.
Resistance over the vaccination requirements has been mounting over the past few days, with rallies and protests organised in various locations across Guyana. These activities have the support of the main political opposition- the APNU+AFC coalition.
Importantly, members of the opposition including Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon have stated that the opposition is not against the administration of the life-saving vaccines. Many members of the opposition, including Harmon, are fully vaccinated.
Their contention, Harmon said however, is that people should be able to choose whether they want to accept the life-saving COVID-19 vaccines. It should be noted that vaccination for COVID-19 is not mandatory.
But Ramkarran underscored that, “The leaders of the (resistance) campaign are misleading their supporters.
“The followers, who should know better, like teachers, health workers and other public servants, are demonstrating appalling ignorance when they frame their objections on dictatorial behaviour on the part of the Government,” the former House Speaker contended.
Previously, the Minister of Health Dr. Frank Anthony said that no one is being forced to take a vaccine. If an individual does not want the life-saving vaccine, he explained, then they have the option of getting the PCR test to confirm that they are not infected with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
He also said that the constitution addresses the right to life and reasoned that vaccines are a life-saving medical intervention.