COVID-19: Adults must be vaccinated to access most buildings; schools’ reopening not affected
Adults are now required to be vaccinated to access public buildings and some private buildings that members of the public have lawful access to, including learning institutions.
This is according to the updated COVID-19 Emergency Measures (No. 22) that were published in the Official Gazette late Saturday. These guidelines are applicable for the month of September, unless earlier revoked or amended.
Importantly, the No. 22 measures replaces the Emergency Measures (No. 21) which previously applied to September. That order has since been revoked.
Paragraph 17 of the updated guidelines, an addition to the measures, now addresses entry to public buildings.
Paragraph 17(1) states: “… any person who wishes to enter a public building shall be vaccinated.”
The previous order stated that these requirements were in place for government ministries and government agencies. Now it has been extended to all public buildings.
The updates measures state that “public buildings” means any building to which the public has lawful access to and shall include both publicly and privately owned buildings including all institutions of learning.
The News Room understands that this includes places of worship, supermarkets, stores, banks and other commercial places.
For unvaccinated people seeking to enter these buildings, an appointment must be made and those people must produce a negative result from a PCR COVID-19 test taken within seven days of the appointment.
These PCR tests must be done at a private facility approved by the Ministry of Health. This test costs about $20,000.
The guidelines do not specifically mention children. But Attorney- General and Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall SC explained that the latest addition to the COVID guidelines do not apply to children
“That is why when they say ‘any person’, we didn’t make any reference to children,” Nandlall told the News Room in an invited comment on Sunday.
Further, he explained that children are excluded from these requirements because the local health authorities are still in the process of administering vaccines to children.
Currently, children aged 12 to 18 years old are being immunised with the US-made Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines.
And until this vaccination rollout is completed, the Attorney- General said that the COVID-19 measures will not address requirements for children. As such, the reopening plans for schools remain unaffected.
While the reopening of schools are currently unaffected, these new measures do place limitations on unvaccinated teachers and parents.
As such, teachers will be required to be vaccinated or present a negative PCR test result before entering schools. Similarly, parents will have to be vaccinated or have a negative test result to visit schools.
In recent weeks, unvaccinated workers attached to various government agencies were barred from entering the compound of their workplaces if they cannot present a negative PCR test result.
As such they have protested these measures stating that they appear to be coercive.
Former Speaker of the National Assembly and attorney-at-law Ralph Ramkarran, however, has said the vaccination requirements are lawful. 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.