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Marty Offline OP
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Health Minister Announces Making Vaccination MANDATORY to enter any Public Building as of October 1

Health Minister Michel Chebat today, September 9, 2021, announced on Open Your Eyes Morning Show that on October 1, 2021, everyone wanting to enter any public building including those privately owned (like stores) must show their vaccination card. To define public buildings it means any building or business the public legally has access to, with the exception of their private homes. This means you must have at least one dose.

He affirmed that this includes schools which are attended by students some of whom can't take the vaccine because they are younger than 12 and no vaccine is available for them.

He subsequently added that another option would be to show negative results of a COVID PCR test taken 92 hours prior to entering a public building or a rapid test taken 48 hours prior.

Starting October 1st vaccination requirements will also apply for public transportation.

Minister of Health Michel Chebat notified that apart from entering public access buildings, passengers on public transport must also present vaccination proof or negative COVID test results prior to boarding.

This means that vaccination requirements will also be needed before boarding busses and water taxis

Joined: Nov 2002
Posts: 2,536
I hear some expats are already packing their bags to leave the country.

Live and let live
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Marty Offline OP
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Sweeping New Policy Will Close The Door On the Unvaxxed

On October 1st, a sweeping new public health policy will come into effect which could seriously affect a large percentage of Belize's population.

Currently, about 60% of the population is unvaccinated. And next month, they won't be allowed into any public space. That includes your neighborhood grocery store, your favorite restaurant, your preferred bank, any government office, and even a bus or water taxi.

The only way to bypass the vaccination card is to have a negative PCR or rapid test which can range from about $75 to about $300.

The Minister of Health made the announcement this morning, and the media questioned the legality of the move.

Hon. Michel Chebat - Minister of Health
"Arising out of the Cabinet meeting held on this Tuesday and in light of the number of cases that we are seeing across the country, government has decided to implement a new measure commencing on the first of October and what that measure is that all persons entering into a public building will be required to have a vaccination or present a negative rapid test or PCR test. The rapid test is a 48 hour test and the PCR test will be a 96 hour test. And so for clarity a public building will include both a privately owned and a publicly owned building and it refers to any building that the public has lawful entry to so now only does it include government building, it would cover restaurants, and grocery stores, it would also cover public transportation so that buses and boats ferrying people back and forth from the islands will also be included."

"Does the government have the legal authority to dictate to a private business owner who he can reject from entering his store?"

Hon. Michel Chebat
"Well we are in a pandemic and so the government goes have the authority to determine how and where and when people can access certain business and set the law in relation to this and I will say to you that Belize is not the only CARICOM country that is doing this, if you look at Jamaica, they have implemented it and most recently Guyana has implemented it and this is just an expansion of what we've been doing. Recently we've passed an SI requiring that patrons of Casinos must prove their vaccination status before they enter and as well as BPO's we have by law require that only 60% of their staff be at work at any time and that 60% must be vaccinated so this is not new to Belize."

And while this is a huge obstacle for those who choose not to get the vaccine, it can also be an issue for businesses who will start seeing a downturn in revenue since a large percentage of the population might be unable to patronize them.

"Did the ministry take into consideration how much money these businesses might lose because of this new regulation?"

Hon. Michel Chebat
"People would be able to access not only the vaccination cards but they will also be able to access businesses if they present a negative test so we do not anticipate that there is going to be any loss for any business. We have over 170,000 who got a first dose and we have 79,000 who are fully vaccinated so the requirement is for one vaccination at this time and please remember it is not only vaccinated persons but person who feel like some reason or the other, they don't want to be vaccinated then they have the choice of presenting a negative test."

Courtney Menzies
"These people they choose to go into a lot of these stores, they choose to go into these restaurants to patronize them but if they have to pay for a test, I know the vaccination is free but still it's their choice, and if they have to pay for a test, they may opt not to go into these stores and that's how those stores will end up losing money because a lot of those people will say I just wah stay home."

Hon. Michel Chebat
"The point of all this is just the safeguard people, to safeguard health. Time and time again the science has proven that it is with the wearing of the mask, the social distancing, the washing of the hands and the vaccines, these are the best defenses we have. If we don't take some major steps as a country, we are going to be facing a major economic crisis and so we are trying to avert a situation where we will have to go through a lock down and then there is going to be a loss for everybody in the country so it is important to communicate the need for people to get vaccinated. Vaccination is the only way to get of the situation we are now facing as a country."

"Was the private sector, the chamber, the BBB consulted about this?"

Hon. Michel Chebat
"We are going to be engaging them and that's why we put the start point on the 1st of October so give us an opportunity to meet with them and to share with them the steps we're taking so that the business community can be ready by the time the first of October comes around."

Enforcement Is A Problem

So every public space including public transportation. It's a huge undertaking and the question remains if the government has bitten off more than it can chew. Who will ensure that every small Asian store on every block or that every taxi driver across the country will be rejecting potential customers?

Well, the Health Minister said they're developing a unit just for the enforcement of the regulation.

Hon. Michel Chebat - Minister of Health
"What will come along with this is what we call a COVID enforcement unit that will be people who gonna be deployed throughout the country and they will be trained to enforce the public health measures, we are also going to be enlisting the assistance of JP's to help us in this process."

Courtney Menzies
"And what about tourists, because you know you don't need a vaccination to enter the country, and other elected officials because you know not all of your Cabinet colleagues or elected colleagues are vaccinated, what about them? Will they be banned from entering these stores without a test as well?"

Hon. Michel Chebat
"The law applies to everybody whether you're a tourist or an elected official or a citizen of the country, the law applies to everyone. Again, the objective here is to try and get as many of our citizens vaccinated as possible. We have now moved away from this concept of herd immunity, with the delta variant and the rapid way it's spreading, that concept has gone out the door so now we're trying to vaccinate the majority of the people we can."

New Rule Has Two Exceptions

But on this long, long list of public spaces that must enforce the regulations, there are only two exceptions. The hospital cannot deny anyone and children under 12 are free to go about since there is no vaccine for them. Again, you may be subjected to proving your child is 11 and not actually 13, for example. While the minister didn't touch on that specifically, he spoke about the two exceptions.

Hon. Michel Chebat - Minister of Health
"Health care attention, medical attention will not be denied to anyone. Obviously a part of this impetus of this step that we're taking is to try and prevent people who are getting into these hospitals. People who have medial conditions and cannot be vaccinated we understand that and once they're providing a document from their doctor stating the reason why they can't get vaccinated, believe me, we are reasonable. This is not necessarily to penalized anybody, this is to try to get as many of our people vaccinated as possible so we can try to curb the spread of the infection and that we can release a little bit of the pressure that our health care system is experiencing as a consequence of this pandemic."

"I heard you mention that schools will also have to impose this, is that going to be applied to the students or those who are 12 and under will be exempt since there is no vaccine for them?"

Hon. Michel Chebat
"Of course we can't implement a rule for somebody where there's no vaccine so I think it's logical that kids who are 12 and under are going to be exempted from it."

Pushback Against New Policy

And while the minister has made it seem like this will be an easy process either get vaxxed or take a test Belizeans were not too happy about the announcement. Many took to social media, as usual, to air their issues with the soon to be implemented regulation. So the pushback has begun - on social platforms at least, and the minister said they expected it. But are they preparing for the protests and form of illegal activity that may accompany the regulation?

"I don't know if you are looking at what's happened in other countries but you might see things like people protesting this, you might see things like more fake vaccine cards coming into circulation, how do you deal with that?"

Hon. Michel Chebat - Minister of Health
"These are all things that are expected, we have all taken steps to tighten the vaccine cards, you now whenever there's a new measure that has such a far reach, we do expect there's going to be some level of push back by some sector of our country but at the end of the day, we have to look at what's in the best interest of the majority of the people of our country and at this point in time, getting the majority vaccinated is by all the evidence what should be done and what is needed."

Courtney Menzies
"What was the opinions of the other people on your COVID team, were they onboard with this or was there some push back from them as well?"

Hon. Michel Chebat
"This is something we've been discussing and clearly it's a new measure and so that there are many questions being asked and so we are gonna do the best that we can to answer all of the questions and put out enough information so that we can quiet whatever concerns there is."

A late evening release from the ministry says that Minister Chebat will be hosting consultations with stakeholders and the public. These consultations - the release says - will provide further explanations on the implementation of the new measures. Dates will be announced in the coming weeks.

Channel 7

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