As James Bus Line is working at containing the spread of the Covid-19 virus, the Belize Coast Guard is looking to achieve a seventy five percent vaccination rate by the end of August. Captain Elton Bennett told Love News that within the past three weeks they have gone from a rate of fifteen percent to an estimated fifty percent. He further explained that the oath that the men and women of the BCG took to protect the country extends to the current pandemic.
Cpt. Elton Bennett, Commandant, Belize Coast Guard: “We are a military service. We’ve sworn our lives to defend and protect this nation. We put our lives in front of harms way. We’re required to fight and die if necessary for freedom for this country so for every member of the Coast Guard who have a doubt then I would have a doubt in that individual as well. You are required to combat COVID. We’re in a struggle against COVID, this is a battle. COVID is responsible for wrecking our economy, for taking lives, this is combat in a different form. So I do expect that every Coast Guard man would understand and understand very quickly that this is how we’ll overcome. I know of no other means of overcoming COVID other than the COVID vaccine. Social distancing had its limitation, we failed and we continue to fail in that regard. Closing the border has its limitation and it impacts our economy. The only way out of this that I can see and if you can show me otherwise is to vaccinate your way out of this pandemic. So I expect that each individual would be responsible and get with the program. anything short of that I consider as very selfish. You’re here to serve your nation. We cannot allow the Coast Guard to go beyond its combat effectiveness with people falling short because of COVID. So I think with the right communications and the right educational program we will get there and we’ll get there very fast. SI 74 comes in that requires every member to either show proof of vaccination or to show proof of a negative test and that SI requires the Coast Guard to be in line, we’re a front line service, we’re front line workers and we have to abide by that so implementing that SI internally which means that we follow the SI which says that if you fail to adhere to the SI regulations then you’re considered absent and disciplinary action will be taken against you. The Commandant cannot go against that SI, I need to follow through with that. So it’s implementing what that SI requires me as the head of department to enforce. So it means disciplinary measures for those who fail to provide the requirements of that SI and that started the first of August.”
Captain Bennett explains that any rationale by his officers for not wanting to take the vaccine would have to be legally challenged.
Dale McDougal, News Editor: Are there any considerations for by the Coast Guard for those who probably would not want to get vaccinated on say religious grounds ?
Cpt. Elton Bennett, Commandant, Belize Coast Guard: “We’ll have to go to the SI, the SI is what governs that and the legal experts will determine that but I have to follow the SI otherwise I would be in contravention of the SI. So it’s enforcing that, it’s disciplinary procedures for those who fail to comply with the SI.”