Legal challenge to Govt’s Covid-19 protocols for further hearing Friday

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A legal challenge mounted by three of the country’s major trade unions against Government’s vaccination policy is set for another hearing on Friday before High Court Judge Fidela Corbin-Lincoln.

The Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU), the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU), and the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) – which represents thousands of public servants – are seeking to quash the COVID-19 vaccination and testing mandate in the COVID-19 Emergency Measures dated July 29.

Attorney General Anil Nandlall is listed as the lone respondent in the case, while General Secretary of the GTU, Coretta McDonald; General Secretary of the GTUC, Lincoln Lewis; Vice President of the GPSU, Dawn Gardener; and Georgetown Mayor Ubraj Narine have filed affidavits in support of the Unions’ case.

The Unions contended that former President David Granger exceeded his authority when he issued the first COVID-19 measures in March 2020. Contending that the measures are an unconstitutional delegation of the President’s powers and infringe Article 111 of the Constitution, the Unions want them to be quashed.

The Unions are also seeking an order of certiorari quashing the COVID-19 Emergency Measures dated July 29, as well as a declaration that same is unconstitutional. They are also asking the court to grant an injunction preventing the State from implementing the requirement that Government workers show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or produce a negative PCR test result at their own expense.

They are also seeking an interim injunction requiring the State to bear the cost for regular COVID-19 testing for employees of the State until the determination of their application to have the measures set aside. However, at a hearing last week, Justice Corbin refused to grant injunctions.

Instead, she adjourned the matter to this Friday, September 17, for further arguments.
Lewis, in an affidavit, deposed that the Government’s COVID-19 measures impede his access to Government service that he may require from time to time.

According to him, by virtue of the COVID-19 measures, Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony implemented a vaccination and testing mandate, “which directly restricts the freedom of movement throughout the country.” Meanwhile, Gardener deposed that there has been significant confusion in the implementation of the measures, and unless the State is restrained, thousands of workers will be affected.

The Unions through their lawyers Dane Victor Elliot-Hamilton and Darren Wade instituted legal action against the State after unvaccinated workers were denied access to their place of employment.

In response to the rise in COVID-19 deaths and cases, the Government has mandated that any person wishing to enter a public building must be vaccinated. A public building refers to a building to which the public has lawful access and includes both privately and publicly-owned buildings.

Any unvaccinated person who wants to enter a public building must make an appointment and present a negative PCR test taken within seven days of the day they want entry. Only tests from a Health Ministry-approved laboratory are accepted. These measures expire at the end of this month.

The Public Service Ministry has also reminded that all public servants who do not report for duty because of the COVID-19 measures will not be paid. The Health Minister, on the other hand, has defended the updated vaccination requirements as necessary to ensure public safety.