Govt mulls measures to facilitate reopening of cinemas


Measures are currently being examined for the reopening of cinemas in Guyana and among the proposals, is for only persons who are vaccinated against Covid-19 to be allowed to attend the movies.

This is according to President Dr Irfaan Ali, who told reporters on Thursday that the cinema industry has been clamouring to be reopened.

“We’re looking at a proposal for the reopening with all the guidelines and certain additions in terms of the [high-efficiency particulate air] filters at 40 per cent capacity. However, to qualify to go you have to be vaccinated, you have to have that vaccination card… and once you’re in the theatre, you have to keep on your mask. That is one proposal on the table,” the Head of State noted.

He went onto reveal that similar considerations are being given to expand the capacity at social places such as restaurants. Presently, restaurants, bars and other similar places allowed to operate at a 40 per cent capacity for indoor dining.

But according to President Ali, a proposal is on the table to increase this capacity to 60 per cent. However, he added that in order to protect citizens, only vaccinated will be allowed in these places.

“So, if you want to go to Palm Court and you want to go to the movies… then you have to be vaccinated. If you’re not vaccinated then you have to wait a bit,” he stated.

President Ali pointed out that these are just some of the different models that are being adopted worldwide to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic. He went onto outline that the pandemic is not a joke and so government has to toughen its approach to ensure that the population is protected.

While acknowledging that persons have democratic rights, he reminded that they also have a social responsibility too. The President said responsible persons who took the vaccine to protect themselves and their families cannot be put at risk by an irresponsible few, who chose not to get immunised.

“We have to find the balance… So, whatever measure we put in place has to bring balance to the equation so that the responsible act [persons have] made by taking the vaccine is not subjected to [someone else’s] irresponsibility,” he asserted.

He was at the time referencing proposed guidelines by the Private Sector Commission (PSC), which in a statement earlier this week expressed concerns over the growing number of COVID-19 infections and deaths caused mainly by persons who are not fully vaccinated,
The PSC said in its missive that it is ready and willing to support all and any action taken by government to protect the population from the surge of this pandemic, including a gazetted comprehensive policy which will ensure that vaccinated citizens are protected against exposure from those who exercise the freedom to refuse to be vaccinated.

The Guyana Government launched its COVID-19 vaccination exercise back in February and is aggressively rolling it out in the various regions across using the Astra-Zeneca/Oxford vaccine, the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine and the Chinese-manufactured Sinopharm vaccine.

To date, some 244,365 persons or 50.2 per cent of the country’s adult population have taken the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while some 129,361 persons or 26.6 per cent of the adult population have been fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, during the interview with reporters on Thursday, the Guyanese Leader was asked about his government’s position on mandatory vaccination for the travelling public. He explained that the Caribbean Community (Caricom) has adopted a posture, with the exception of Trinidad and Tobago, to accept citizens from any Member States who are vaccinated.

According to President Ali, one has to be realistic with what is happening in the world, hence, he posited that Guyana’s position to accept negative PCR tests from persons arriving the in country will remain for the time being.

“…As you know, globally, the vaccine rate is very, very low and this is one of the consequences of vaccine inequality. Because if you’re to say only vaccinated persons can travel, then those developing countries that never had the opportunity to even get access to the vaccine are automatically left out of the equation. So that is why the PCR has to remain in place until there is some level of equity,” the Head of State contended.

Moreover, it is because of this very vaccine inequality that President Ali said his government had to turn to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to procure the Sputnik V jabs. The UAE had facilitated Guyana’s first purchase of the COVID-19 vaccine.

However, government had come under criticism from certain quarters, particularly the APNU/AFC Opposition, for going through the Middle-East to acquire the vaccines – a move which President Ali defended, once again, on Thursday.

“My only focus and the focus of government is the protection of the lives of the people of Guyana and I made it clear from day one that I’m going after the vaccines. There is no price to the life of the people of this country. We’ve tried every single source; we tried every single manufacturer. We tried every single embassy, ambassador, country and state to get the vaccine and we got it from this source and the only thing that matter to me is that we got it from this source, and I know that it has helped us tremendously in the fight against COVID,” the President asserted.