No man shall buy or sell

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The scriptures speak of a time when “no man shall be able to buy or sell unless he has the mark of the beast.” [Revelation 13:17]. Of course, ’the beast’ is the Antichrist, and either by way of his mark in the forehead or the right hand, he will facilitate commerce. If one is not bearing that mark, he or she will not be able to engage in commercial and economic activity. Hmmm! Of course, this editorial is not a Biblical dissertation. We will leave those theological issues having to do with eschatology to the men and women of the cloth. Nonetheless, we cannot help but see some striking similarities in the prohibition to buying and selling unless one has the mark, to the creeping prohibition against one engaging in his or her employment unless he or she is vaccinated. It is indeed safe to suggest that these prohibitions are a forerunner to other worldwide sweeping prohibitions that could be in our future, unless . . . .

If you will recall, when the coronavirus vaccines were first rolled out, practically every government on earth said that they were voluntary, and that they would make no attempt to force them on people.  They spoke in lofty rhetoric about freedom of choice and the rights of ‘conscientious objectors’ and constitutional liberties, and all that sort of thing. However, there is a new thinking in many parts of the world that perhaps, the vaccinations should be made mandatory. In fact, in almost every discussion on the vaccines from some of the people in high places, even as they talk about the voluntary nature of the vaccination programme, “for now,” there are undertones and not-so-subtle suggestions that everybody ought to take the vaccine – for the greater good, helping our communities achieve herd immunity.

True, mandatory vaccinations can be ethically justified if the threat to public health is extraordinarily serious. Think existential. Of course, there must be public confidence that the vaccine is efficacious and that it is safe. Based on all the reputable literature that we have read on the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, it is safe and efficacious, and so far here in our fair State, those who have been vaccinated, have not shown any appreciable side-effects. This was the assurance from Dr. Courtney Lewis in an appearance on Observer radio’s VOICE OF THE PEOPLE broadcast yesterday.

But there can be no denying the element of coercion, be it ever so small, in some of the pronouncements from those in high places, here and abroad. We see a trend; call it ‘mission creep.’ And it has to do with what our Prime Minister (PM), the Honourable Gaston Browne has been referring to as “lives and livelihoods.” It also has everything to do with the notion of reciprocity. In other words, we cannot expect tourists and visitors to come to our shores, fully vaccinated and that sort of thing, while we are lax with our vaccinations. In fact, we have heard that a number or airlines and cruise vessels will not be carrying passengers unless they are vaccinated.  Stands to reason that those visitors will be avoiding destinations where the exposure to Covid-19 is great, or greater than the countries from whence they’ve come. In other words, countries that have not achieved herd immunity will not be able to . . .  as it were . . . ‘buy and sell;’ that is, engage in commerce in the tourism market. Our PM alluded to that fact in a discussion on his radio broadcast this past weekend.

        According to the JAMAICA GLEANER of May 4, 2021, in an article entitled, PM WARNS OF MANDATORY COVID-19 VACCINATIONS FOR ANTIGUANS“We are struggling on a monthly basis to meet salaries and wages and you are telling me that Antigua and Barbuda as one of the hardest-hit countries, one of the most vulnerable, you are telling me we have the luxury of not getting vaccinated? . . . Well, I want to say definitively to the people of Antigua and Barbuda that we do not have the luxury of not getting vaccinated and if we do not get the herd immunity perhaps in the next 60 to 90 days there is going to be weeping and gnashing of teeth in this country . . . That is the reality of it. . . . So people need to take responsibility and go out there and get vaccinated. You got to do it for yourself, for your children, your friends, the entire community, and also for future generations because as I said the economic and social scars are getting deeper and deeper day by day. . . . This type of hesitancy and reluctance to get vaccinated is just totally unacceptable. I mean we have been trying to avoid introducing any mandatory requirements for vaccinations, but I want to signal here, if we have to do it we will do so. . . . It is going to be an inescapable fact that our people have no choice but to get vaccinated, they either do so voluntarily to protect lives and livelihoods or be forced to do so. . . .  What they do not recognise is that the very job they may save is their own job, especially those in the hotel sector. Why do you think that tourists are going to come here to go to hotels where people are not vaccinated? It is common sense.” Hmmm! There you have it, folks. In black and white!

After months of hemming and hawing, those in high places have come right out to suggest that your livelihood; your ability to buy and sell; your job, will be jeopardised by your refusal to take the vaccine. Recent conversations with the Chief of Staff in the office of the Prime Minister, Lionel ‘Max’ Hurst, and Health Minister Molwyn Joseph, and Information Minister Melford Nicholas on the question of ‘to mandatorily or not to mandatorily vaccinate’ all had hedges and caveats and the coda, “for now.” It gave them plausible deniability.

Of course, this new thinking on the part of those in high places is not unique to Antigua and Barbuda. We have heard similar utterances from a number of officials around the region. For example, the good PM of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, about a month ago, warned the teachers of that fair State to “get vaccinated, or Covid-19 tested, or leave.” Ouch! We believe that this will be the way of the world.

The coercive wave of the future, if you will. One will not be able to buy or sell, unless one is vaccinated. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that some supermarkets and gyms and other public places will eventually restrict their membership and patrons to only those who’ve been vaccinated. Hmmmm! And as our good PM said in the preamble to his undisguised and naked threat, “This is not a threat . . . there is going to be weeping and gnashing of teeth in this country . . .”

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