Monday, April 15, 2024

GOB mandates essential workers and public officers to be vaccinated against COVID-19


As the country continues to traverse the bumpy COVID-19 road, the Government of Belize (GOB) has introduced another measure to combat the virus and protect the Belizean people.  On October 15th, a memo was issued from the Ministry of Public Service, Constitutional and Political Reform titled ‘Mandatory Vaccination.’ The notice stated that all essential workers and public officers must be vaccinated by December 15, 2021.

The memo asserts that Rapid Testing or PCR tests will no longer be accepted, and those who cannot produce proof of vaccination (having taken one or both doses) will not be allowed inside their workplaces. Currently, government employees have the option to present a negative test instead of getting the vaccination. According to the GOB release, the worker/officer will be marked absent and subject to disciplinary proceedings according to any law regulating that worker’s services.

Who are Essential Workers and Public Officers?

The mandate applies primarily to personnel who works with the government. Public officers refer to all employees working at governmental offices throughout the different ministries or departments. Some of these include the police, Labour Department, Fisheries Department, Belize Tax Services, and persons working in entities such as town or city councils. Essential workers are members of the security forces, Customs and Excise Department, and the Department of Immigration Services. Frontline workers such as health care providers are also essential workers.

“essential worker” means an employee of an essential service

Many have voiced dissatisfaction with this new regulation and believe the government is violating people’s rights. Instead, some recommend that the country be fully open and the government up their game in vaccination and improving health facilities. While many believe the vaccine is the only way to protect against the disease, they think the government should not threaten Belizeans to get vaccinated.

Meanwhile, in Europe, cases are reportedly surging, forcing countries like the Netherlands to set partial lockdowns. In Austria, the unvaccinated will be placed in lockdown as that country faces a surge in cases, stating they would not take the situation lightly. Other countries are considering similar measures as they expect a spike in infections due to the winter temperatures that keep people in a more enclosed environment.

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