‘They have a choice’
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Health Minister, Dr. Frank Anthony
Health Minister, Dr. Frank Anthony

– persons are not being forced to take the vaccine, says Minister Anthony

HEALTH Minister, Dr. Frank Anthony has reiterated that government is not “forcing” anyone to get vaccinated during a segment of “COVID-19 discussion” aired on the National Communications Network (NCN) on Sunday. In the new COVID-19 measures, casinos, betting shops and cinemas which were closed since the discovery of COVID-19 here in March 2020, will be allowed to operate but only at 40 per cent capacity as part of efforts to control the spread of the virus.
The orders also indicated that patrons visiting these establishments are required to be vaccinated (that is, have at least one dose of a recognised COVID-19 vaccine) and must wear their face masks properly at all times. From August, as well, operators of public transportation — including minibus operators, taxi drivers and speed boat operators — must be vaccinated. It was stated that these operators must be able to produce their official identification document (such as a national identification card or a passport) and vaccination card when requested by a police officer or any person authorised by the Health Minister. As before, these operators will be required to ensure that their passengers are wearing face masks.

PSC Chairman, Paul Cheong

In a move to further protect people from the spread of the virus, the guidelines state that unvaccinated people will only be allowed to access in-person services at any government agency or ministry by appointment. Otherwise, members of the public who are vaccinated will be allowed to freely access the services offered by those agencies.
Minister Anthony, in responding to questions on implication arising out of this new mode of operation for services, reminded that government did not institute these clauses to corner persons into taking a COVID-19 vaccines but rather to protect vaccinated persons from unwittingly being exposed to the virus.
“I don’t think people are being forced; you have an option, if you don’t want to take the vaccine then you’ll have to get tested, and produce your test, already some workplaces are saying you have to produce tests if you’re going to maintain safety in the workplace, you’ll have to produce a test,” said Minister Anthony.

The Health Minister reminded persons opting to take weekly COVID-19 tests against taking the vaccines being distributed through the government’s vaccination efforts, that government expends around US$100 per test and should this system become mandatory by employer’s government’s testing budget would significantly increase.
Further, he noted that while government has managed to procure a significant number of tests to boost its capacity, those tests are intended to be utilised to help government identify and curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus across the country.
Private Sector Commission (PSC) Chairman, Paul Cheong, who also appeared on the programme lauded government’s efforts to protect persons who have taken their doses of the COVID-19 vaccines, in an effort to return to normalcy.

“The persons who took the vaccines they have rights too, they went and take that vaccine to keep themselves and their families and their loved ones protected from the virus so its fair to them, this system protects them from getting the virus,” Cheong expressed.
Just last week, the PSC and the Giftland Group of Companies took a stance by calling for its unvaccinated employees to submit negative PCR tests at the beginning of each work week.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Giftland Group of Companies stated: “It is critical that all people in the workforce get vaccinated against COVID-19 because of highly contagious variants.”
It also pointed to the fact that COVID-19-related hospitalisations and deaths are on the rise throughout the country.

“It has become a worldwide known fact that 99.5 per cent of all persons in hospitals and [who are] dying from the dreaded COVID viruses are unvaccinated,” the Giftland franchise stated.
The company said that its decision was in keeping with continued efforts to protect its employees and patrons, and to create a safe work and shopping environment for all Guyanese.
Giftland’s announcement follows the release of a strongly worded statement by the PSC last week.
The commission had called on members to require vaccination of their employees.
“The Private Sector Commission embraces and recommends that its member companies require that all of its employees who refuse to be vaccinated must provide evidence of a medically- current COVID-19 negative test from infection before reporting to work, while continuing to encourage all of its employees to become vaccinated,” the statement read.

Further, the PSC urged that the government makes it mandatory for all medical and security personnel in frontline contact with other persons to either be vaccinated or provide evidence of a medically-current COVID-19 negative test.
“… and that all places providing hospitality and entertainment services, including restaurants, require evidence of either vaccination or a medically-current COVID-19 negative test from its customers in order for them to receive service,” the PSC added.
The PSC also lauded the government’s “sterling efforts to obtain vaccinations for our people in an effort to achieve herd immunity for the nation”.
As it is, Guyana is one of the very few countries that have managed to secure enough vaccines to inoculate its entire adult population. Notwithstanding this feat, there are some Guyanese who are reluctant to take the vaccine.

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