High Court refuses to temporarily block COVID-19 vaccination measures

Last Updated on Friday, 17 September 2021, 12:57 by Denis Chabrol

High Court Judge, Fidela Corbin-Lincoln on Friday refused to grant an injunction to block the COVID-19 vaccination and PCR testing measures or declare that government that the measures are invalid because the President and the Minister of Health have exceeded their authority.

Justice Corbin-Lincoln said she could not grant a temporary declaration because that would mean having to go into the merits of the substantive case brought by the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU), Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) and the umbrella Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC).

The substantive matter is yet to be heard and no date has been fixed yet, although Attorney-at-Law, Darren Wade, representing the unions, indicated that he would like the matter to be heard urgently.

Justice Corbin stated in her decision that the State that to declare that the State must pay for PCR tests for government employees could lead to further confusion, even as she pointed out that the State has a duty to ensure the health of the nation. “In my mind, making an interim order directing the State to pay for a PCR test pending the hearing and determination of this matter will do no more than bring further confusion than what the applicants contend is already a confusing situation,” Justice Corbin-Lincoln said.

“As part  of its efforts to combat the pandemic, the government has already implemented a requirement for proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test to enter public buildings. The State has a duty to avert the spread of the disease,” she said, adding that issues of constitutionality of the measures have not been tested in the  local courts.

She  said the directive is silent on who should pay for the PCR test and it is clear that it makes no provision for the State to pay for that test.

The High Court Judge observed that the world has been impacted by the COVID pandemic and governments worldwide have imposed several measures, including mandatory quarantines, lockdowns, mask-wearing and vaccination,  to contain and reduce the spread of the virus.

The GTU, GPSU and GTUC want the High Court to declare that a direction by the President March 16, 2021 was made in excess of his jurisdiction under section 21 of the Public Health Ordinance, and was an unconstitutional  and improper delegation of the President’s powers.  Further, they are asking the High Court to declare that the Covid-19 Emergency Measures (No. 20) dated the 29th day of July, 2021 is invalid having been made without jurisdiction given the unconstitutional nature.