By Michelle Sutherland
A recent poll conducted among approximately 200 members of the Belize Medical and Dental Association (BMDA) has revealed that a majority of their members are in support of the Government’s proposed “vaccination pass” which is scheduled to be rolled out today, October 1st.
The vaccination pass will restrict unvaccinated persons from entering any Government-controlled buildings if they cannot present a negative PCR or Rapid test, taken within two weeks.
The new regulation, Statutory Instrument No. 111, reads:
“For the purposes of preventing, controlling, containing and suppressing the spread of the infectious disease COVID-19, and subject to sub-regulation (2), any person who wishes to enter a public medical institution, government office or the office of a statutory body shall, prior to entering that office, present proof of immunization together with a valid identification card.”
The regulations would go on to stipulate that unvaccinated government employees would need to present a negative PCR test every two weeks. The rules would go on to state:
“A person who works in a public medical institution, government office or the office of a statutory body and who fails to comply with sub-regulations (1) or (2)(a) shall (a) not be allowed to enter that public medical institution, government office or office of a statutory body; and (b) be deemed absent from work and subject to disciplinary proceedings in accordance with any law that regulates the services of that person.”
On Thursday the Reporter spoke to the President of the Association DR. Uldine Wright who said: “We [members of the BMDA] are definitely in support of the new regulations.”
President of the Belize Medical and Dental Association Dr. Uldine Wright says medical community supports the new measures.
Dr. Wright added, “We have a survey done among our members and over 74 to 75% of our members agreed with the mandate. The majority of our members, however, believe that more education must be done on vaccines because the hesitancy among the public right now seems to just be based on pure hesitancy due to rants on Facebook or other social media platforms that they are getting. The signs right now are showing that vaccinations and public health measures are the only options that we have at our disposal to get out of this pandemic, so we are in support of it.”
Two weeks ago, Minister of Health Michel Chebat announced that new regulations were on the way and had revealed that they would be rolled out at both Government and private institutions, and even on public transportation. However, on Wednesday, September 29th, the Attorney General of Belize Magali Marin Young notified that there were changes to the regulations which was prompted after the Minister had engaged in consultation with the various stakeholders.
Young, in an interview with Channel 7 News, explained, “After Minister Chebat had announced that this requirement would come into place, Cabinet had ask him to engage in consultation with various stakeholders including the Belize Chamber of Commerce and he engaged in those discussions and based on the advice of the medical community, he advised that it would be best to do it in a phased approach at this time.”
Now with the proposed scaling back of the regulations, we asked Dr. Wright if she is of the view that it will achieve the intended objective. “Well it would definitely decrease the efficacy of these restrictions but it would not be to a great extent because most people in some way or the other will have to at one point access a government building,” Wright answered. “If they rolled it back I see no problem with it. The members had initially agreed that it would be ok for the private entities to implement it as well, but I can see why the minister is taking a phased approach and I have no objections to that.”
Young explained that the scaling back was done in the economic interest and the fact that the government still needs an influx of revenue to meet its payroll. She also highlighted the need for the ministry to heed and consider the advice from medical experts. Young, however, made it clear that “there is nothing stopping the private sector, a private business owner from implementing these same restrictions.” She then went on to encourage private businesses to implement measures to protect themselves, their customers, and employees.
The president of the BMDA, however, is making the suggestion that the Ministry of Health scale up their approach by ranking businesses based on the vaccination percentage among staff and the sanitary measures that they have in place. Wright said that the rankings should be put on display, at the entrance of the building so that customers can be aware of how safe it is to enter the establishment and will have a personal choice whether to enter or not.
Ending off her interview Dr. Wright told the Reporter that while the BMDA has members that sit on the COVID-19 regulations committee, as an association the entity was not consulted about the newest regulations.
Another notable change to the regulations is that the regulations will also be applied to anyone who wants to access the court for attending as a juror, witness, or is part of any court proceedings. The regulations will also apply to persons who visit the police station to make a report if they are being, detained, questioned, or charged, and anyone that is being remanded or serving a prison sentence.
Under the new regulations neck gaiter, fishing face mask, and ski mask are also being banned.