Establishment of “safe zones” that was scheduled to begin on November 1 with healthcare facilities might be delayed by at least a week, Prime Minister Mia Mottley has disclosed.
At the same time, she has indicated that once the new measure was established across the various sectors, she would not be stepping in to stop private entities from asking for a test for those who have not taken the COVID-19 vaccination.
“There are some people who say I must intervene, the government must intervene to stop private people from saying who they want at private functions. The government is not going to do that. The same way we have defended the right of persons not to be victim of a mandatory vaccination policy, equally we are not going to stop people who want in their private events to be able to have people who are vaccinated only,” said Mottley.
“We also recognise that there are some public events for which that level of protection is what people would like and that is the direction we are going in. So we hope that they can start that soon,” she said.
Mottley was responding to a question about the likelihood of a safe zone for the entertainment and events industry during the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) business forum and luncheon at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre on Wednesday.
Stating that she did not want to give a definite timeline, she said she believed that while the directives were being drafted for other sectors, the directives for private events could also be done and be ready hopefully by the middle of next month “or thereabout”.
“A lot depends also on the guidance from the Chief Medical Officer and others,” said Mottley.
With less than a week to go before the start of the month, Mottley said while the draft directive for the safe zone measure for the health care facilities was “in safe hands”, authorities needed to meet with the private operators of those facilities.
She also suggested that a shortage of manpower in the Attorney General’s Office, which is responsible for the drafting of the directives, could impact the time in which the orders are done.
Last week when Mottley announced that safe zones would start by November 1, she said her wish was that each week it would be implemented in a sector.
“The bottom line is that the one for the healthcare institutions I believe that draft is in good hands, and I may well ask them and the Minister of Health to defer it for another week because I believe the Chief Medical Officer has to bring in all the owners of the private nursing homes and the various other people who run private health facilities because this is not just a case of passing a directive, we need to talk through with people and make sure they understand what is happening,” said the Prime Minister.
She said the plan remained the same, to also introduce such a measure for other sectors with frontline workers.
Under the measure, vaccinated staff and members of the public will be allowed entry to safe-zone facilities while those who are unvaccinated will be required to present a valid negative COVID-19 PCR test.
Government will allow private entities to determine how often those tests are required. The rapid test will be permitted and individuals will pay for their own test to attend certain places such as restaurants and private events.
During the BCCI event, Mottley also dismissed calls from the business community for mandatory vaccination, suggesting that such a move could cripple the labour market.
“There is a difference between losing your job because you refuse to be vaccinated and being encouraged to be vaccinated. That is the delicate balance which this country has to maintain,” she said.
Mottley said once the vaccination numbers exceeded the 75 per cent of the population mark, then there would be more easing of restrictions.
Up to Tuesday, October 26, 64.7 per cent of the eligible population had received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 54 per cent were considered fully vaccinated, with a total of 123,217 persons having both jabs.
“If we get to probably 75 per cent of that eligible population we can start to see many of the restrictions go,” she said.