BELIZE CITY, Wed. July 14, 2021– Yesterday, a newly formed group dubbed the Belize Rights and Justice Movement (BRJM) hosted a press conference to express their opposition to what they perceive as a move that is underway within the Government of Belize to eventually make it mandatory for Belizeans to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The group is vigorously objecting to what is laid out in SI 74, a Statutory Instrument which was enacted last week and which includes a provision that mandates biweekly testing for frontline workers who have not started the inoculation process by August 1. When questioned by local media about the charges being made by BRJM, Minister of Home Affairs, Kareem Musa reiterated that the Government is not mandating vaccinations, but is simply requiring a harmless test to ensure that frontline workers who are interacting extensively with the public are not infected with COVID-19.
“It’s very important, whenever I get the opportunity to reenforce that we are not mandating vaccinations. All that we are saying is that you get tested; that’s a completely different thing, a completely harmless test every two weeks starting August 1. Like I said, all the frontline workers, whether you work in a restaurant or you’re a pilot for Maya Island or Tropic, you work with people, and so if you are going to be on the frontlines, bring back the economy, it is very essential that you are protecting not only yourself but those who are with you, that you are in charge of, and so it’s a very important point,” Minister Musa said.
He further said that while he understands the fear of those in the society who are still reluctant to receive the vaccine, it will be mandatory for those persons to provide a negative Covid-19 test result. “There is a segment of the population that is scared to take the vaccine for whatever reason. They choose not to take the vaccine. We respect that, but it is not mandatory that you get the vaccination, but it will be mandatory to prove that you are Covid-negative for the safety and securing of other members of the public who you serve,” he said.
Hon. Musa also addressed questions many have had about whether the government will be covering the cost of such frequent testing, or if frontline workers will have to shoulder the steep costs themselves. He stated that while testing is still available free at various sites countrywide, Government may need to revisit that policy if the number of frontline workers needing testing every two weeks is excessively high.
“I know that the test is readily available for free at many of the clinics across the country. I was informed that it will continue to be free, but of course if it is a large number of public officers, restaurant employees who are refusing to take the vaccine, then I think we will have to revisit the whole concept of it being free,” he said.
Minister Musa hopes that only a small number of frontline workers have to be tested every two weeks, given the increased rate of vaccination that the country is currently seeing.
Frontline workers who remain unvaccinated, as mentioned, will have to provide a negative Covid-19 test result before reporting to work or they will be considered absent, and as a result will be subject to disciplinary measures. Minister Musa admitted that enforcement of this measure will be an arduous task for the Public Health inspectors inside the Ministry of Health and Wellness.
“The Ministry of Health, through the Public Health inspectors, will have to go establishment by establishment, check with the proprietors to show, in fact, that they have a roster of employees who have been complying with the regulations. It’s certainly an arduous task. I’m not saying that it is going to be easy, by any means it’s gonna be very difficult, but it’s something that we can manage, and we can verify using our Public Health inspectors,” he said.