By Orville Williams
Despite the central government’s forceful approach in mandating Covid-19 vaccinations across the public sector, the Barbuda Council insists that it will not follow suit, at least until legal advice is secured.
The vaccine mandate went into effect on Monday, with unvaccinated public sector employees told to stay away from work until proof of vaccination is provided. Starting October 1 as well, the salaries of those workers who remain unvaccinated will be withheld until they can prove they are vaccinated.
Employees attached to the Barbuda Council need not worry about these issues – at least for the time being – as Chairperson of the Barbuda Council, Jackie Frank, explained.
“We’re seeking legal advice because the Barbuda Local Government Act does give us a certain amount of autonomy. We’re not going to do anything until we have a meeting [today] to finalise and decide.”
The Barbuda Council employs a significant number of Barbudans, meaning it could be harshly impacted by a vaccine mandate. Frank noted this point, adding that they are already dealing with other issues that could make the entire situation worse.
“The implications here could be quite dire, because the Council is a major employer. We’re already behind with salaries and wages, because we’re not receiving the full amount of the transfer grant that we should be getting from the government.
“It’s a quite serious implication, so we’re not going to rush anything, we’re going to visit our laws and take legal advice.”
The Council Chair also explained that, while Barbuda’s Covid infections have increased, the cases do not necessarily originate within the sister isle. The major source of the infections, she said, is also behind the inaccurate declaration on the high number of Barbudans that have been vaccinated.
“When we’ve been spoken to by the doctor, he said that if Antigua’s numbers go up, Barbuda’s numbers are [also] going to go up and they have. It’s mainly because there are construction workers who come and go to Antigua on either a daily or weekly basis.
“Some of them have come back with the [Delta] variant and then they live in the village, they go to the shops, they talk to people and Covid is passed on that way.”
“The information that was put out [that] there was a high number of people vaccinated, included in that number are the construction workers that come here. So, the numbers are high, but I think that’s in part because a lot of the workers have been made to get vaccinated [to avoid] losing their jobs.”
The Barbuda Council has also expressed concern about the number of people testing positive for Covid on the island, with nearly 40 confirmed infections so far.
While the Council remains displeased with the lack of resources and space available at the Hannah Thomas Hospital, it continues to urge residents to abide by the established protocols, to keep themselves and the community safe.