Scores protest gov’t’s COVID-19 policy
ST JOHN’S (CMC):
Scores of people demonstrated outside the office of Prime Minister Gaston Browne on Monday, but the government remained resolute that it would not move away from its policy to get public servants vaccinated.
The protestors, some shouting that “Browne is a dictator!” and that the policies “were against their human rights,” urged the government to rethink the policy indicating that, effective immediately, all officers and ancillary staff are encouraged to get vaccinated or subject themselves to a COVID-19 PCR test every 14 days.
This follows the cabinet meeting last Thursday, when government said that all unvaccinated, frontline public-sector workers who refuse to pay for twice monthly COVID-19 tests would be required to stay home without pay.
The Antigua and Barbuda Trade Union Congress was schedule to meet with its affiliates, including the Antigua and Barbuda Public Service Association (ABPSA), late on Monday.
Browne said over the weekend that his administration must act in the safety of all government workers, saying also that he was prepared for the political fallout from the policy.
He added that that’s a risk he’s willing to take in the interest of the country, insisting that tough decisions must be taken to protect the health and economic well-being of all citizens.
The chief of staff in the Office of the Prime Minister, Lionel Hurst, said that at least 30,000 people have so far not taken the vaccine as the government moves to ensure herd immunity as soon as possible.
Hurt, speaking on Observer Radio yesterday, defended the policy, saying “the government of Antigua and Barbuda has invited every resident and citizen to take the vaccine and 30,000 people have remained obstinate and have not taken that vaccine, and they threaten to undermine our tourism as well as the others in Antigua and Barbuda requiring hospitalisation, and even to face death.
“As a consequence, we asked gently for them to be vaccinated. There is no harm in being vaccinated, there is no danger to them, except imagined dangers, and no injuries will result, and therefore they ought to take the vaccine.
“We are trying to get 30,000 people who have not gotten vaccinated to volunteer for the vaccination. You have got to vaccinate, otherwise you will not only force a danger to your family, but also to the tourists, those on the frontline.
“A lot of jobs depend on the folks coming to Antigua and Barbuda feeling safe and wanting to return … and therefore, we must ask all people on the frontline to get vaccinated and not to delay doing it,” he added..
Antigua and Barbuda has registered 43 deaths and 1,428 cases of the virus since March last year.