Careful consideration in President’s orders on COVID-19 – AG
─ ‘there will be no capricious action’
DPI, Guyana, Wednesday, March 18, 2020
Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Hon. Basil Williams, SC. has categorically stated that the implementation of Public Health Ordinance (Cap.145) is being carefully executed
AG Williams was directly responding to sensationalised reports on social media that have sought to raise alarm to section 20(1) of the Public Health Ordinance (Cap.145) which provides that, “a person may be deprived of his or her personal liberty as may be authorized by law for the purpose of preventing the spread of an infectious or contagious disease.”
These provisions were activated on Monday by His Excellency President David Granger to protect the nation against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) that has so far affected people in 172 countries and territories around the world.
“It is not a provision that will be utilized whimsically or capriciously by the Minister [of Public Health] or any authority,” the Attorney General maintained.
According to the Attorney General, the freedoms enjoyed by Guyanese are subject to exceptions, particularly in cases where the wellbeing of a nation is threatened.
He explained that to ensure the country is protected against COVID-19, the President implemented several measures under the Public Health Ordinance (Cap.145) that empower the Ministers of Public Health, Education and Citizenship respectively to execute functions in the interest of public health.
Some of these functions include the isolation of persons who may be suffering from the disease and their subsequent transfer to hospitals for treatment. Additionally, the restriction of movement of persons to contain the virus has also been gazetted.
Through the Head of State. the Minister of Education has been tasked with taking measures to control and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in educational institutions, while the Minister of Citizenship has been empowered to take similar action concerning immigration.
Conforming with the provisions of section 20(2) of the Public Health Ordinance (Cap.145), President Granger has tasked the Minister of Finance with expending monies from the nation’s Consolidated Fund to carry out the measures that were gazetted.
The Public Health Ordinance was made part of the country’s laws in the 1930s. Since then, the Act has been amended in the National Assembly.