Unions withdraw legal challenge against Covid-19 measures

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Citizens in the capital city, Georgetown wearing masks as outlined in the Covid-19 Emergency Measures

Now that the COVID-19 pandemic is lawfully being managed by the Board of Central Health, Attorney-at-Law Darren Wade, on Thursday, confirmed that he has withdrawn an application filed on behalf of several unions challenging the COVID-19 Emergency Measures.

At a virtual hearing of the matter which was fixed for oral arguments this morning before Chief Justice Roxane George, SC, the lawyer made an application to have the matter withdrawn in light of the recent updates to the COVID-19 Emergency Measures published in the Official Gazette.

During a telephone interview with this publication, Wade explained that the Public Health (Coronavirus) Regulation published in the Official Gazette is now being issued by the Chairman of the Board of Central Health and not by the Health Minister Dr. Frank Anthony as was being done previously.

“COVID-19 is now managed by the Board of Central Health which is prescribed by statute and not the Minister,” he said. Guyana’s most recent COVID-19 Emergency Measures were issued by the Chairman of the Board of Central Health, Dr. Narine Singh, and President Irfaan Ali.

The older measures were only signed by the Health Minister.

The case was filed by the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU), the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU), and the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) – which represent thousands of public servants. Attorney General Anil Nandlall, SC was listed as the lone respondent.

The Unions had contended that former President David Granger exceeded his authority when he issued the Emergency Measures purportedly in accordance with Section 21 of the Public Health Ordinance.

The former Head of State, in issuing the measures, declared that COVID-19 is an infection, and directed the then Health Minister, Volda Lawrence to take all the necessary measures to control the spread of the disease.

The Unions had contended that the former President’s act amounts to an unconstitutional delegation of his powers and an infringement of Article 111 of the Constitution of Guyana.

Ultimately, the Unions were asking the High Court for an order of certiorari quashing the COVID-19 Emergency Measures, as they relied on an unconstitutional grant of authority to Granger, which they argued renders them invalid and void of effect.

The Unions had asked the court to grant an interim injunction preventing the State from implementing the requirement that public sector workers show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or produce a negative PCR test result at their own expense.

The Unions had also sought an interim injunction requiring the State to bear the cost for regular testing for employees of the State until the determination of the substantive matter – the application challenging the constitutionality of the COVID-19 Emergency Measures.

None of the injunctions were granted.