(Trinidad Guardian) Public servants have been given another month to abide by the Government’s vaccination policy.
The Government had initially set a deadline of January 17 to make all public offices into safe spaces that allowed only vaccinated people to work, but on Saturday Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced the one-month reprieve.
“I have asked the Attorney General to take a little more time and of course, it cannot be forever, so today I am announcing that what we had intended that might have been done on January 17, will now be done somewhere around February 17,” he said.
Rowley was speaking at the time at the Government’s COVID-19 update at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s.
The Prime Minister last addressed the matter back in December and said that the mid-January deadline was given then because of the low vaccination figures and the high hospitalisation rate. The vaccination rate has since improved, which gave the State some wiggle room to extend the implementation of the vaccine policy by one month.
“I am very pleased for some of the reports I have gotten from the public sector that we have improved some of our vaccination,” he said.
Rowley said that there were still some people who were “digging their heels in” and others were being encouraged to not cooperate.
“That is par for the course, we don’t expect that overnight everybody would change their views,” he said.
The Government would legislate and be in the same position as the private sector to determine which areas of Governmental operations could operate under legislation as safe zones are being attacked too, he said.
“What is safe in a pandemic? Who can offer you safety in a pandemic? It is a relative term, quasi-safe,” he said.
He said that the citizens are better off if all are masked, sanitised and socially distanced even in safe zones.
“If the opposite is what we are doing then that zone is not very safe, we know how the virus is spread so to engage in discourse over safe zones and safe zones not being safe, and vaccines not being useful because it does not prevent you from getting the virus, that is just carrying on an unproductive conversation,” he said.
He called on people to focus on what can be done instead.
“When we looked at our exposure, when we looked at our level of deaths, when we looked at the projections that we were facing, I said the last time I was here that the Government, as the largest employer will manage its workplaces in such a way to acknowledge the vaccination programme that is taking place, those who are vaccinated, those who are out and to acknowledge those who made the choice of not being vaccinated and there are consequences to both sides,” he said.
Rowley said that the last time he addressed the issue back in December he did say that the Government was prepared to legislate to help manage the national vaccination programme and the safe zone arrangement.
Rowley said the private sector had taken a number of steps to keep its operations open.
“Many aspects of the Government sector is also open and we are also vaccinated,” he said.
The Prime Minister said that the Government had set a target of 80 per cent vaccination for the national community and listed out the vaccination figures for all the Government ministries. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs boasted the highest vaccination data at 87 per cent while Tourism and Social Development were just under at 85.3 per cent and 83.3 per cent respectively. National Security vaccination numbers hovered just over 34 per cent.
“What this tells me and it should tell you is that there is a significant number of people in the ministries that are vaccinated, a very significant number,” he said.
“Nobody has said that vaccination eliminates the possibility of getting infected or requiring health care at an institution, nobody has said that. It is said that you are much better able to respond to the virus if you are vaccinated,” Rowley said.
According to the data, some 14.1 per cent of all patients hospitalised with the virus are vaccinated while the majority of 85.6 per cent were unvaccinated.
“You do not have to be a physicist or a mathematician, you only have to be a person who opens his or her eyes and see that that majority of people that are ending up in the hospital looking for hospital care from doctors, nurses and their support staff are people who are unvaccinated,” he said.
Rowley said that taking the vaccine had always been left up to personal choice but that choice will have consequences.
Rowley said that he believed that the death figures were easily dismissed by people in the absence of normal funeral proceedings.
He said he personally believed that if there were normal wakes and funerals, the reality of the death rate would be starker.
“We might have been acting differently but we hearing numbers and we are reduced now to numbers,” he said.
Rowley said that the choice was still there and the vaccines were not mandatory.
“If mandatory vaccines are about saving your life how many of you are prepared to put a rope around your neck and jump off?” he asked.
The Prime Minister said that there had always been mandatory vaccines and even that came with a choice as unvaccinated children were not allowed to participate in free primary school education.
“This is the best way to keep the country operating as the pandemic continues to rage,” he said.