Businesses with anti-vaxxers to be penalised?

  • Keheliya says ‘anti-vaxx’ a right, but not a licence, to imperil others

BY Pamodi Waravita

The Government is contemplating whether to allow businesses which are accessed by the general public, particularly supermarkets, to operate as usual if their employees choose to remain unvaccinated despite being eligible for the vaccine, Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella told The Morning yesterday (20).

“Once we have administered both doses to all those who are eligible to receive the vaccines, we will consider implementing this process, taking cue from various countries that have implemented the same. This would be especially necessary for certain public places, for example, supermarkets. If supermarket employees refuse to get the vaccine, then while that is their right, it poses a serious threat to the public as supermarkets are places the public commonly use. In such a scenario, the Government may have to consider whether those businesses can continue to function since they pose a heavy threat to the public. Thus, we are contemplating all of these factors at the moment,” explained Rambukwella.

Speaking to The Morning further, Rambukwella added that the Health Ministry is contemplating the introduction of a mandatory Covid-19 vaccination card to access certain public places, noting: “Although anybody has the right to refuse the vaccine, they don’t have the right to place anybody else at risk of the virus.”

Sri Lanka is currently experiencing a speedy vaccination process, and discussions of the accessibility of public places are underway around the country. National Operations Centre for the Prevention of the Covid-19 Outbreak (NOCPCO) Head and Army Commander Gen. Shavendra Silva announced last month that people above the age of 30 years who are entering public places from 15 September onwards would be required to produce their Covid-19 vaccination cards.

Last week, Police Media Spokesman Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Nihal Thalduwa said that unvaccinated people over the age of 30 years were denied entry into the Mannar and Bandarawela towns, following a decision by the respective District Co-ordinating Committees on the Prevention of Covid-19.

However, Gen. Silva told The Morning on 17 September that he has instructed all ground-level authorities islandwide not to implement this decision yet as the expected vaccination target of vaccinating all eligible persons above the age of 30 years had not been reached.

Therefore, this decision has not been implemented yet.
International media reports show that vaccination cards have been made mandatory for certain groups of the public in a number of countries. For example, Australia has made vaccination mandatory for at-high-risk elder care workers and quarantine hotel employees whilst England has announced that patrons of nightclubs will have to show proof of vaccination prior to entry.

According to the Presidential Secretariat’s “Vaccination Dashboard”, 75% of the population over the age of 20 years has been fully vaccinated with two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, while over 50% of the total population has been fully vaccinated.