(iWitness News) The main opposition New Democratic Party, on Thursday, described as a “draconian measure” the government’s vaccine mandate, which comes into effect today (Friday).
Under the mandate, police officers, teachers, certain public servants and employees of state entities will be required to take a COVID-19 vaccine or lose their jobs.
“The New Democratic Party believes that this draconian measure is the wrong approach to the problem of low level of COVID-19 vaccination in SVG,” the party said in a press statement.
“We call for an approach guided by compassion, consideration and practicality; not bullying and coercion. Firing government workers (or threatening to fire them), many of whom have given numerous years of selfless service to our country, because they have not decided to be vaccinated is harsh and unfair,” the party said.
“Throwing people off work and taking away their benefits can only create more hardship and pain in an already difficult situation.”
The NDP said that statements by government officials about replacing with new recruits, police officers, teachers, nurses, and other workers who have years of experience in their jobs “disrespects the service and skill of those affected employees.
“Instead, their experience and skill must be valued, and every effort made to retain those workers in the service. Anyone who is fired or resigns because of the government’s vaccine mandate must be rehired or otherwise compensated without loss of benefits.”
The NDP said that many people in SVG have received “confusing or conflicting information and are genuinely fearful about vaccination.
“So, government action should be persuasive rather than punitive. It is only through such collaborative endeavours, communication, and trust that we can improve our vaccination levels. We call for more effective campaigns to provide information to allays fears and enable people to make informed decisions.
“The government must withdraw its high-handed measures and explore alternatives that involve greater consultation and engagement with the affected persons and their trade union leaders and the use of an aggressive information campaign about Covid-19.
“Our goal must be to bring our people forward along the path to progress, not to divide them and drive them into greater economic hardship and unhappiness,” the party said.
As of Thursday, 51,288 doses of COVID-19 vaccines had been administered in the country, even as the government had hoped to have put 50,000 jabs into arms by April 2021.
Of the vaccines administered, 29,249 were second doses, and 21,500 were first doses.
The number of active cases of COVID-19 across the country was 1,243 and since March, 2020, SVG has recorded 5,359 cases of COVID-19 and 73 people have died of the illness.