As efforts to strike a balance between protecting lives and livelihoods manifested with the easement of some COVID-19 restrictions, the New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister Keith Mitchell is facing strong opposition to its decision to stipulate vaccination requirements for the operation of and access to certain businesses on the island under the new COVID-19 Regulations for the next two weeks.
The Grenadian leader had previously vowed to not pass laws to impose mandatory vaccination in the country.
However, in an address to the nation on Tuesday morning, the Prime Minister announced that effective Tuesday, October 5, persons employed in the dining services and food sector, bars, fitness centers, daycare centers and those in the beautification industry among others that were forced to close for the last four (4) weeks, must be vaccinated to reopen, and to continue discharging services.
Several persons on the island including controversial talk show host Kem Jones have reacted by describing the move as a clear attempt “to build a segregated society.”
Jones slammed into the Prime Minister during a live on his Vision Information Services Facebook page, hours after the new COVID-19 regulations became public.
Among the new measures announced by PM Mitchell is a slight adjustment to the nightly curfew, which will continue from 7 p.m. to 4 a.m., discontinuation of the no-movement weekends, the reopening of retail stores across the country.
An appeal was made to store owners to maintain 50% capacity to avoid being overcrowded, while beach access has been set at 4.00 a.m. – 4.00 p.m. daily.
Jones questioned the authority of the NNP regime to dictate the movement of individuals whose rights are enshrined in the Grenada Constitution, which he said is the “supreme law of the land and cannot be made less than, and no other law should be in contravention of.”
“I want to know where Keith Mitchell and his Cabinet get the authority from to tell me that I cannot go on the beach at a particular time during the day, that I cannot go to a restaurant that is open for the public and eat or dine, I must take away, to tell me that if I have to go there, I must be vaccinated and show my vaccination card, (and) that as an employee…to tell me that I cannot work if I am not vaccinated…,” he said.
Jones charged that this means only the vaccinated people will get privileges while the unvaccinated will be disenfranchised.
“I would love to hear the legal luminaries start articulating on where Keith Mitchell and his Cabinet got that authority from…did it come from the Constitution… because the Constitution speaks about our freedoms – can they take that away for one year and a half and more, with the Cabinet making all the decisions – What is this? I never knew that a Prime Minister or a government could have so many powers.
Speaking during the weekly post-cabinet briefing in St. George’s on Tuesday, Attorney General Dia Forrester reinforced the new COVID-19 Regulations, which she explained are part of the Emergency Powers Act, which “creates the framework within which we can introduce particular things into the laws of Grenada in a time of a State of Emergency.
“And, that is what you have being done here, the way that the regulations themselves are drafted, you are required to present your vaccination status,” the AG said in response to a question posed.
“So, you deciding whether or not you present your vaccination status is optional, and you can therefore not be able to discharge those duties or provide those services,” she said.
However, the female AG noted that, “If you opt to provide those services or discharge those duties as an employee or provide those services as an employer then you must comply with what the regulations provide for, failing which, if you provide those services or discharge those duties in violation of the regulation that is when the penalty comes into force.”
However, Jones holds the view that this is a move by the NNP to segregate Grenada and views it as a “recipe for anarchy and chaos.”
“That’s a recipe for problems…remember, they’re enshrined in the Constitution … our liberties and our freedoms…you can’t take that away from people, no, you looking for problems,” said Jones who stressed that “this country belongs to all of us, the vaccinated and the unvaccinated.”
According to the Emergency Powers COVID-19 regulations, “a person who contravenes or fails to comply shall be guilty of an offence and, on a summary conviction is liable to a fine not exceeding EC$1,000.00 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months.