By Orville Williams
Faced with queries on the policy elements that apply to vaccinated versus unvaccinated persons in the country, the government says it will continue to be “guided by the science” and only require Covid testing from persons who fall in the latter category.
The rules for employees in the public sector were widened late this week, to require more than 14,000 staff to either be vaccinated or submit to a twice-monthly Covid test in order to be allowed into any government office. That adjustment is set to come into effect on October 1.
One of the most debated issues with those and other similar rules – primarily for the unvaccinated – is that they are ‘unfair,’ as vaccinated persons can still get infected by Covid-19 and transmit the virus to others.
In essence, the argument for many people who are yet to be vaccinated is that the testing requirement should be applied to everyone across the board. This was certainly the view of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) some weeks ago, when the rules were announced for frontline government workers.
Addressing the matter on Thursday, Information Minister Melford Nicholas, reiterated the “science” behind the policy, which hinges simply on the degree of risk.
“The level of transmissibility from persons who are vaccinated is less, simply because they are not becoming unwell…that is the reason why that particular regime looks that way.”
At the height of the pandemic last year, widespread testing was required to detect positive cases, in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus. The addition of the vaccines over the past couple months, Nicholas added, has essentially reduced the need for such intense testing.
“We have two periods of study, the period before vaccines and the period after vaccines. Now that we are in the period after vaccines, it is clear that persons who are vaccinated [and] who have been diagnosed with Covid are not showing symptoms.
“So, it is clear that the ability for them to transmit the disease is lessened, simply because they’re not having the types of [symptoms]. Most of these positive cases have come as a result of contact tracing, which has uncovered their status because they were not showing symptoms,” he said.
Armed with the same facts, virtually all countries within the region – as far as domestic matters are concerned – have adopted this approach to regulating the Covid risk.
The most noteworthy deviation from this norm is where overseas travel is concerned; many countries, including Antigua and Barbuda, require all incoming visitors to be tested, even if they are vaccinated.
While the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledges this reality, it advises that “people who are fully vaccinated can resume both domestic and international travel and do not need to get tested or quarantine either before or after their trips.”
It added that if the airlines and the receiving countries do not require Covid tests, vaccinated people don’t need to get tested before travel.