Florida governor lifts all Covid restrictions

A man rides a bicycle as people walk on Ocean Drive in Miami Beach, Florida on June 26, 2020. — AFP pic
A man rides a bicycle as people walk on Ocean Drive in Miami Beach, Florida on June 26, 2020. — AFP pic

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MIAMI, May 4 — Florida governor Ron DeSantis on Monday lifted all Covid-19 restrictions in the US state, citing the effectiveness and availability of vaccines, in a move that attracted criticism from Democratic mayors.

DeSantis signed a law invalidating local emergency orders — which impose restrictions due to Covid-19 — effective from July 1, and then signed an executive order that bridges the gap between now and then.

“That’s the evidence thing to do,” the Republican governor said at a news conference, referring to the reduction in infections and deaths as the vaccine rollout continues.

Nearly nine million people — out of a total of 23 million residents — have had at least one dose of the vaccine in Florida, according to the US health department.

“At this point, the people that haven’t been vaccinated is certainly not because a lack of supply or a lack of availability,” he added. 

The vaccine was made available last Friday for everyone over the age of 16 without the need for proof of state residency, a document that had been required since January to cope with the initial high demand. 

This enabled vaccinations for undocumented migrants, who had difficulty proving their residency, as well as, tacitly, so-called vaccine tourism.

DeSantis — a potential 2024 presidential candidate who is popular with many Donald Trump supporters — criticised the strict security measures that remain in place elsewhere in the United States. 

He said that those who say they need to still restrict residents are saying they “don’t believe in the vaccines.”

Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are available, in many cases without appointment, at federal, state and county centres; in addition to numerous pharmacies and supermarkets. 

“I’m deeply concerned by this decision. We are still in a public health emergency,” said Daniella Levine-Cava, Democratic mayor of Miami-Dade county, the most populous in the state.

“Fewer than half of our residents have been vaccinated, and we face a growing threat from variants.”

Rick Kriseman, St. Petersburg mayor, said DeSantis was putting his own ambitions above health policy.

“This isn’t for the protection of Floridians,” he said. “This is for politics — and that’s not what it’s supposed to be.” — AFP

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