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DLP: Govt ‘seeks to force people to get vaccinated’

by Barbados Today
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Public health measures to control the spread of COVID-19 was on Thursday at the centre of a political tussle by critics as the Democratic Labour Party  yet another challenged the Government on its proposed safe zones for the health sector.

The party’s spokesman on Labour and Social Partnership Relations, Courie Cox, blasted Monday’s bumpy roll-out of the initiative, telling Government  “to go back and come again”. He also charged that it has raised many questions and created confusion.

Cox declared that the directive appears to be nothing more than an attempt by the Government to frustrate vaccinated workers, “forcing them into being vaccinated,” without consultation with trade unions.

Under the Emergency Management (COVID-19) (Safe Zones) Directive, vaccinated employees at all healthcare institutions including, nursing homes, private hospitals, senior citizens’ homes, dental offices, doctors’ offices, testing sites, quarantine facilities, and isolation facilities are to be COVID-19 tested at least once every 42 days. Unvaccinated employees on the other hand must be tested once weekly or as often as the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) determines.

He said: “How can the government alter the terms of employment contracts without first making the requisite amendments to the Employment Rights Act?

“The question we are now forced to ask is if the worker fails to show for work would that person be considered to have abandoned their work? Would they be laid off with or without pay, or even replaced?”

“Has any consideration been given to the number of unvaccinated workers in the healthcare sector and the subsequent impact this initiative can have on the delivery and quality of healthcare given in this country, especially when one considers that quite a few nurses are still unvaccinated?

Public health officials have repeatedly stressed that vaccination offers the best protection against severe illness, hospitalisation and death from the coronavirus. But Cox, the DLP candidate for St Michael Central, argued that vaccinated people can still catch transmit or even die from the virus. He declared that with a “high majority of COVID-positive Barbadians being asymptomatic, individuals could have COVID unknowingly; therefore testing vaccinated workers in the manner proposed is flawed”.

He said: “A person can acquire COVID after they test negative, go through the contagious period, and clear it long before they are required to test again all the while placing colleagues and clients at risk.

“I do not believe that a worker’s vaccination status should determine if, when and how often he or she is tested.”

COX maintained that everyone should be tested frequently and at the same rate under the proposed safe zones and suggested Government examine other forms of testing.

“I believe Government needs to look at alternative forms of COVID testing which is less invasive and painful such as the saliva test.”

Over the last two days, Health and Wellness Minister Lt Col Jeffrey Bostic has been meeting with health sector figures to resolve the issues raised about the safe zones. (BT/PR)

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