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By Orville Williams

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With their livelihoods largely dependent on the increased return of tourists to the island, one of the country’s more vocal taxi associations is playing its part to protect the nation from the spread of Covid-19 and improve the chances of further economic stimulation.

The United Taxi Association – which operates primarily from the VC Bird International Airport – was one of three such associations that gave a commitment to the government that they would encourage their members to get vaccinated, as they await the rebound of the tourism sector.

Speaking to Observer yesterday, United President, Ian Joseph, disclosed that the majority of his members have already been vaccinated, even some who are not actively working at this time.

“At the airport, we took the vaccinations and the reason for vaccinating [against Covid-19] very seriously. I don’t have the figures in front of me, but I can tell you that more than 90 percent of the drivers who are operating now would have already taken the first dose.

“I [even] know of drivers who are not even operating now, who would have made themselves available to take the vaccine. So, we have a small percentage – between five and ten percent – of the drivers who still have some reservations.”

Much has been discussed about the urgency of the vaccinations over the past months, with the public vaccination programme having stalled, threatening the goal to reach herd immunity.

This has led to warnings from the government, that the possibility exists of the shots being made mandatory, to improve the country’s chances of a return to normalcy, particularly where the economy is concerned.

Despite those warnings, however, Joseph says their efforts will remain to encourage, rather than to force any member to take a vaccine.

“We would have given the Cabinet the assurance that we will encourage, [but] I will not be forcing anybody to do what they don’t want to do. It’s a personal choice, but we have been encouraging [the drivers] and that’s as far as we can go”, Joseph explained.

He also issued another call to the remaining drivers to get vaccinated, to give themselves and their profession the best chance of getting back to normal.

“I will say it [again], I’m encouraging all the drivers to look at this again and take one for the team, take one for Antigua and Barbuda. Let’s trust the scientists and get the vaccinations done, so we can get the economy up and running again.

“The strength of the economy depends right now on the health of the people, so I would advise and encourage each driver to look at this again and get vaccinated.”