“How people go be able to afford it?” mused President of the Antigua and Barbuda Public Service Association (ABPSA) Joan Peters, regarding Prime Minister Gaston Browne’s recent disclosure about mandatory Covid-19 testing.
Browne, speaking on his weekend radio programme, said the government is considering adding unvaccinated public servants to the list of people who will be required to test twice monthly for Covid-19 at their own expense.
“How can you make it mandatory? It can’t be mandatory! And mandatory for them to test at their expense? It’s 300 or 300 and something dollars for one test,” Peters said heatedly.
“When yuh nuh even have enough money fuh buy food?” she continued to question, while noting that “government workers work for the least amount and every day cost of living is going up”.
Browne said that the possibility is being entertained because of the slow rate of vaccination in the country.
“We are literally on the verge of making that decision. If the vaccination process continues to be slow, we will take that decision — and this is not about trying to create any hardships for people. This is about managing an increased risk of possible hospitalisation and deaths as a result of a Covid strain that is debilitating and deadly — that delta strain,” he said.
But Peters said that if such a policy is implemented, “workers will have to stand up for their rights when it comes to that”.
The government has already implemented this stance for tour operators and other frontline workers, who have not received a Covid-19 shot.
Browne maintains that he stands firmly behind the policy of his administration as the main aim is to protect the citizens of Antigua and Barbuda.
“In fact, I wish that back in December the decision that we [quarantine] everybody at Jolly Beach, I wish that we had effected that. We kind of literally relented based on the pushback; even when we said we were limiting socialisation to 10 persons, we got a lot of abuse. Luckily, we didn’t relax it so that in itself probably would have helped to reduce some of the socialisations,” the prime minister added.
Information released by the Ministry of Health as of July 19 showed that 37,316 first doses of the Covid-19 vaccines have been administered to residents, while 28,808 have received their second doses.