High Court scuttles trade unions’ plans to prevent implementation of COVID-19 measures
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Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall, S.C.
Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall, S.C.

THREE of the country’s major trade unions have lost their bid to secure interim injunctions to restrain the implementation of the government’s COVID-19 vaccination requirements.

High Court Judge, Fidela Corbin-Lincoln on Friday refused to grant the injunctions prayed for by the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU), Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) and their umbrella body, the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC.)

The Unions have asked the court to grant them injunctions preventing the State from implementing the vaccination requirements, and ordering the government to stand the cost of regular COVID-19 testing for all public servants.

In her ruling, the judge was at pains to explain that although the Court has jurisdiction to grant the injunctions at reference, it is in the public’s best interest not to do so, since it would be preventing the government from doing what it must to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus here.

GPSU’s Dawn Gardner, GTU’s Coretta McDonald, and GTUC’s Lincoln Lewis

“The world has been severely impacted by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic; governments throughout the world have employed various measures to contain and reduce the spread of the virus. These measures include mandatory lockdowns, quarantines, curfews, and mask-wearing. The introduction of vaccines is the most recent effort to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

The court is not deaf to the debate raging around the world, with respect to the ethicality and effectiveness of the vaccine; the legality of mandatory vaccine requirements is a reasonable infringement of constitutional rights. These matters are still to be tested in court,” Justice Corbin-Lincoln said in her ruling.

As she went on to say, while everything seems to suggest that vaccine hesitancy is a big issue here in Guyana, the government is doing everything it possibly can to keep the virus at bay, by implementing such measures as asking persons to show proof of vaccination or a negative PCR result before entering a public building.

Among other things the judge said was that while granting the interim injunctions would have been just a “temporary fix” to the situation, she prefers that such issues are fully ventilated when the substantive matter is heard.

Speaking of substantive matters, which, in this case, is the Fixed Date Application (FDA) challenging the government’s COVID-19 emergency measures, that case is expected to be heard, at a date yet to be fixed, before another judge.

In their applications, GPSU Vice-President Dawn Gardner, GTU General Secretary Coretta McDonald and General Secretary of the GTUC, Lincoln Lewis are all claiming that former President David Granger had exceeded his authority when he issued the first COVID-19 emergency measures back in March 2020, and are therefore calling for them to be quashed.

The State is being represented by Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, S.C, and the Unions by Attorneys-at-Law Dane Elliott-Hamilton and Darren Wade.

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