New regulation requiring vaccination card or negative COVID-19 test before accessing public buildings or services to be enacted next month

On October 1st, the Government of Belize is poised to enact a new regulation to contain the spread of COVID-19. The law will require individuals to either provide proof of vaccination or a negative test to access public facilities and services. Several businesses in San Pedro Town have announced they will enforce the regulation to provide a safer environment for customers. The government is yet to gazette the proposed legislation, however, Attorney General (AG) Magali Marin Young said on Tuesday, September 28th, that it is going to be implemented based on advice from the medical community considering the increase in cases and deaths caused by the virus, particularly the Delta variant.

The AG explained that the intent is not to make vaccines mandatory, but propose that persons be inoculated against the virus and access essential services without risks of infection. “Vaccine mandates require every citizen to take a vaccine, that is not what is coming into effect on the 1st of October,” she said. “What is coming into effect is that for you to access public facilities, you will be required to show your vaccine card or produce a negative PCR that has been taken within 96 hours or negative rapid test was taken within 48 hours,” Young said that the government does not consider this action to be mandatory for people to get the jab. The people have an option.

The proposed law will require anyone accessing public government buildings, private establishments, schools, public transportation, and medical institutions to show their vaccination card or produce a negative COVID-19 test. In the case of individual establishments/businesses, they are expected to enforce the rule and apply the regulations to protect staff and customers. Attorney General Young added the only exception is at medical centers for emergencies, but for routine visits, patients will be required to show their vaccination proof or a negative test.

According Minister of Health and Wellness (MOHW), Honourable Michel Chebat, enforcement be conducted with the assistance of the police and the Justices of the Peace. Penalties will include $500 for persons without a vaccination card or valid COVID-19 test. He has also said that establishments not enforcing the measure could face up to a $1,000 fine. Chebat is in close communication with the country’s medical personnel and has consulted with members of the public to agree on what regulations to implement. MOHW is working on the development of an app to scan vaccination cards and verify authenticity.

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GOB prepares for vaccine mandate for public buildings Oct 1

The Government of Belize is only a couple days away from enacting its October first vaccine regulations. Referred to as a soft mandate, persons entering public owned buildings, which include Government owned buildings, statutory bodies, social security and public health care facilities, must provide proof of vaccination. In the event you have not yet taken your jabs, you have the option to present a negative PCR or rapid COVID test result. The government’s legal team and the health response task force are still working to iron out the details of the regulations before they are made public later this week. Attorney General of Belize Magali Marin Young was a guest on Open Your Eyes Morning Show where she provided some details and made the distinction between a mandatory vaccine mandate and the proposed government regulations.

Magali Marin Young, Attorney General of Belize

“Let’s be clear, there is a big difference between making vaccine mandatory and the proposed regulations the government intend to enact, to come into effect the first of October. Vaccine mandate require every citizen to take a vaccine. That is not what is coming into effect the first of October. What is coming into effect is for you to access public facility such as government building, building owned by statutory bodies, social security, DFC etc. You will be required to show your vaccine card or to produce a negative PCR taken within 46 hours or negative PCR test 94 hours. There will be exception to this, but it will be medical emergencies. But, if you are doing your day to day check up you do need to produce your vaccine, or negative PCR or rapid test.”

Consultations Prompt Changes to Oct 1 Regulations

There is one change to report. Minister of Health Michel Chebat has decided to scale back the reach of the regulations, reportedly after consultations. Viewers may recall that when he first made the announcement, live on Open Your Eyes two weeks ago, Minister Chebat said the mandate would apply to all buildings the public has legal access to, including private businesses. Well, he walked that back, and this morning AG Young noted that the mandate will only apply to government owned buildings. This news should come as a relief to the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry, because they were concerned about the cost businesses would incur to ensure compliance with these regulations, and the administrative challenges of such a measure. Notwithstanding, private business will be able to enforce these regulations if they opt to do so.

Magali Marin Young, Attorney General of Belize

“Initially when the discussion started, we were thinking of all buildings that the public access. But, Minister Chebat has been in consultations and for right now we are only doing public owned facilities, owned by the Government, or by a statutory body controlled by the government. But, there is nothing to stop private business from enacting these same regulations. It is their property and they can control who enters their building and who does not. Similarly with their employs, they have a contract with their employees, and they have a duty to safeguard their employees. So, they can, from the perspective of controlling persons who enter the building, to protect their employees. And also their employees, requiring that they be vaccinated or produce a negative PCR or Rapid test to protect fellow employees.”

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