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The BCCI Writes to the PM Over the October One COVID-19 Mandate

In seven days, the Government of Belize will begin enforcing the news regulations that will limit unvaccinated persons from accessing public buildings and spaces. It is a regulation that has seen much opposition from various pockets of society. Today it’s the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) that is weighing in on the changes. In a letter dated Thursday, September 23 to the Minister of Health, Michel Chebat the BCCI reaffirmed their support in the measures against the spread of Covid-19, but did express some concerns they have regarding the October 1 regulations. The 2-page letter noted, in part, quote, “it must be ‘front-of-mind’ to the MOHW that there is a cost to any business to ensure compliance with regulations. The ‘checkpoint’ for entering private business places the burden on the owners of that private property to enforce the regime, causing the business community to bear the financial and human-resources costs to do so. Fundamentally, as you would be aware, most businesses are already reeling under the economic shock brought on by the present pandemic and have already put in place measures for customers to be checked for COVID-19 exposure via temperature monitoring and sanitization before entering their premises; therefore, any additional expenditure would just exacerbate companies’ financial situation. Second, recognizing the administrative challenges that can emerge in a complete rollout of such a program, it is advisable that the government starts first with public-sector buildings only. With the e-governance push to provide services digitally, the lesser working hours for public-sector, along with the government’s ability to corral the police forces to enforce this regulation, it is most suitable that this government policy be applied to property owned and operated by the government. Third, the option for test results to be provided by unvaccinated persons is, in principle, consistent with sound ethical and legal considerations, but the MOHW must urgently improve the efficiency and turnaround time associated with the government-provided, free-of-cost PCR tests if its intention is to indeed offer the populace a viable alternative to vaccination. The regime will fail to achieve its objectives if the accessibility and efficiency of the tests are suboptimal. It is imperative that we reiterate our comments on the need for a more citizen-centric and comprehensive vaccination campaign country-wide. Ultimately, the BCCI views the vaccine as one of the key tools (among other measures) to help all communities overcome COVID-19. Effective communication from the government, which engenders trust and confidence, includes not only effective advertising, but also detailed explanations to the population in layman’s language relating to aspects such as exemptions and the goals of the government’s regulations.” End of quote. The letter goes on to speak of a business certification programme where at least 80% of employees would be expected to be fully vaccinated. That, however, is an issue still in the discussion phase.