Government to be taken to court again over vaccine mandate

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By Carlena Knight

Government will have to return to court for the second time to defend its vaccine mandate.

Attorney Lawrence Daniels, while speaking to this newsroom, revealed that he will be challenging the vaccine mandate on behalf of government workers next month.

This is just the second plaintiff to take the government to court as the Antigua and Barbuda Public Service Association (ABPSA) did so last month.

Their matter however was dismissed in the High Court as the challenge was thrown out on the grounds that the association did not have the authority to put forward the motion given the current state of emergency and that the association is reportedly not a duly registered body.

The union filed the petition for judicial review in late September after claiming that the mandatory policy was “unreasonable,” “irrational,” and “disproportionate,” among other things.

The association also sought a stay of the policy and amendment, pending the final determination by the High Court.

With this new legal battle lingering, Attorney General Steadroy ‘Cutie’ Benjamin remains confident that the government will once again come out victorious.

“I’m satisfied that when these matters are heard that the law will be properly established and at the end of the day, it will be seen that all actions contemplated and done by the government were in the interest of public health and the public safety of the nation as a whole,” Benjamin said.

Attorney Anthony Astaphan will lead the legal team for the government. He is accompanied by Attorneys Joy Dublin, Alicia Aska, RoseAnn Kim, Zachari Phillip and Carla Brooks-Harris.

The matter will be heard in Court on December 13.

The public sector mandate was first announced in September and it stipulated that all public sector workers would have to have either one dose of a Covid vaccine or be fully vaccinated before returning to work.

 Failure to do so after October 1, would result in them not being paid.

 Those unvaccinated workers who did not have a medical or religious exemption, and attempted to enter the workplace, and refused to leave when asked, would risk being fined EC$500.00 or sentenced to a month in prison.

Just last week, a similar mandate was announced by the government for the private sector.

Private sector employers were told that once they have five or more persons on staff, those employees would be required to have had at least have one dose of a Covid vaccine in order for them to continue working.

According to Information Minister Melford Nicholas, it is hoped that by November 15 private sector employees would have already had at least one dose of a Covid vaccine.

These mandates are just several measures that the government is implementing in the hopes of reaching herd immunity by year end.

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