Not fully vaccinated, no entry to public spaces

  • Keheliya says AG gave green light
  • Smartphone app in the pipeline
  • DDGHS notes legal implications

BY Pamodi Waravita and Ruwani Fonseka

Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said yesterday (8) that the Attorney General’s (AG) Department had informed him that it is legally possible to prohibit access to public spaces for those who are eligible to receive vaccines yet are not fully vaccinated with two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, and that therefore, the Government will implement regulations in this regard soon.

“Last week, I asked AG President’s Counsel Sanjay Rajaratnam as to whether we could legally do anything about prohibiting public spaces for those who are eligible to receive vaccines but are not fully vaccinated. Today, I received the response noting that we can do it. I hope to do this legally, similar to a number of developed countries that have already done so,” said Rambukwella, whilst addressing the Parliament yesterday.

He added that the Health Ministry will be introducing a smartphone “app” for the documentation of the receipt of both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine.

“If someone does not have this proof, then they will be prohibited from public spaces. They might go to court against the matter, but we are ready to face that,” said Rambukwella.

Rambukwella was not available for immediate comment regarding The Morning’s query on the fate of those who were fully vaccinated but did not possess a smartphone.

However, Deputy Director General of Public Health Services (DDGPHS) Dr. Hemantha Herath told The Morning yesterday that the legal implications will need to be revisited if having received the Covid-19 vaccine is made mandatory to access public places.

“We cannot impose such rules unless the legal implications are re-visited. There is a formality, but there is also a social responsibility of the people to help stop the spread of the virus. We are still in the discussion phase, and for such a rule to be implemented, we need more time to decide,” said Dr. Herath.

He also added that vaccines, or “any sort of medical treatment”, cannot be forcefully given to anyone, and so this decision cannot be made hastily.

The Presidential Secretariat’s Vaccination Dashboard noted that over 84% of the eligible population over the age of 16 years has, as of yesterday, been fully vaccinated. The Health Ministry also began vaccinating frontline workers with a third dose of the Covid-19 vaccine last month.