By Carlena Knight
Following yesterday’s new vaccine mandates announced for government workers, Cabinet is hoping the move will inspire the private sector to follow suit.
Cabinet spokesperson and Information Minister Melford Nicholas made that point during the weekly post-Cabinet press briefing on Thursday.
“We are certainly going to encourage the business community to follow the lead of the government. We had some good indications earlier in the month where a number of businesses would have taken measures to require vaccination or testing,” Nicholas said.
Those hopes were divulged in a private consultation held Thursday afternoon via Zoom with representatives from the private sector, unions, political parties and other officials.
In a bit of irony, hours before the scheduled meeting, one of the country’s main opposition parties shared their displeasure and shock over the government’s brazen move to announce new regulations before the meeting took place.
The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) questioned the purpose of the consultation, claiming it was to provide a fig leaf of legitimacy for measures already decided upon.
In a statement released Thursday, the DNA said the call for consultations was insincere.
It deemed the government’s published mandatory vaccination policy to be draconian, insensitive, illogical, inconsiderate, high-handed and unreasonable.
“It is a frontal assault on the long-cherished rights, freedoms and privileges enjoyed by our people and protected by various international treaties, conventions and laws,” the DNA said.
The minority party also believes that the policy is intended to greenlight a similar private sector crackdown.
The DNA even called on residents to resist what they are calling a slide into dictatorship and autocratic rule.
Meanwhile, the United Progressive Party (UPP) said they “categorically rejected” the Gaston Browne administration’s approach of mandating vaccines without consultation.
“The party is concerned – like all right-thinking persons – about the frightening spike in Covid-19 infections and the recent number of related deaths,” it said in a statement also released yesterday.
Accordingly, it welcomed the invitation extended by the Prime Minister to collaborate with other organisations and devise policies to meet the challenges.
However, the release of the government’s new and “totalitarian” policy – revealed ahead of the consultation – leaves no room for any other voice or proposal and excludes the input of civil society completely, it charged.
The UPP has said, and it reiterates, that it does not support what many describe as “forced vaccination,” the release said.
The party referred to the government’s move as “punitive” and “bullying”, saying it “fails to recognise the hardships – economic, social, and mental – it is imposing on a population already battered by the Covid-19 fallout”.
They noted that the new mandates showed no sign of assistance for businesses, no new or expanded social programmes, or alternative methods that would persuade residents to accept inoculation.
“Nothing but threats and intimidation of the local population. Even as we recognise the scientific need to get to herd immunity and the obligation to protect health, lives and livelihoods, the United Progressive Party cannot and will not support this dictatorial approach. The end, noble as it might seem, does not justify these means.
“Democracy demands that the people – or at least representatives of all the people – are afforded a seat at the decision-making table,” the UPP added.