Opposition Leader Paul Lewis

Opposition Queries Government’s Mandatory Testing Rule for Unvaccinated Workers

Opposition Leader Paul Lewis has posed a series of questions in relation to last week’s announcement by Premier Farrell and Minister of Health Kirnon of a mandatory fortnightly testing of workers, who chose not to be vaccinated.

Officials last Friday, said they would be approving a new order which would give vaccinated travelers only 10 days in quarantine rather than the current 14. For public servants who choose not to b vaccinated, they would be subject to COVID-19 tests every two weeks.

Lewis said the shorter quarantine time was welcomed but added that it fell short of the seven-day release most people were expecting.

He called the government’s second announcement of essential workers, inclusive of civil servants, having to be tested every two weeks, even though there are no COVID-19 cases on island, puzzling.

“When our island had COVID-19 cases, these very same workers were not tested unless they had symptoms or if they had to undergo contact tracing. Now here we are today with zero COVID-19 cases in Montserrat, yet this government is seeking to bring forward a testing policy that clearly has not been well thought out, and may very well border on harassment,” stated the Opposition Leader.

“Furthermore, I have to ask, that if this two week repeat testing is to determine the safety of the workplace, then why is it that only the persons who have NOT taken the vaccine are to be tested? It has been established that one of the ways to find out if an individual has the virus is by testing them. Secondly, it is now also known that even after a person has been vaccinated, there is still a possibility of them contracting and spreading the COVID-19 virus. Therefore, this means that the only way to know if persons at the workplace have the virus is to test everyone and not just those who have not been vaccinated. So why is the Government discriminating against the persons who have not received the COVID-19 vaccine?”

The leader of the Opposition called the measure “underhanded” and a way to “pressure essential workers and civil servants into taking the COVID-19 vaccine.”

“This is not the way the people should be treated. Citizens’ rights must be respected, and more profound and intelligent conversations need to be had with the citizens of our country as it regards them taking the COVID-19 vaccine. We must be respectful of our people and have a conversation with them, not pressure and coerce them underhandedly,” he charged.

Lewis also asked whether the government has the manpower and resources for repeat testing fortnightly and whether it was a practical to do so.

“…This government stated during the last lockdown that they do not have the resources or the manpower to have conducted testing at that period when we had COVID-19 and testing was definitely required. So now we have no COVID-19 cases, and they are seeking to ramp up the testing to every two weeks, one must wonder how will they now manage all these tests?”

Lewis also asked:

  1. Why test persons living in COVID free Montserrat every 14 days who have not travelled into any COVID hotspot?
  2. If some workers miss the mandated two-week repeat testing, will they not be allowed to go to their jobs?
  3. Will the government of Montserrat be withholding their salaries?
  4. If essential workers and civil servants are not vaccinated, are their jobs now being threatened by the government of Montserrat?
  5. Will government also refuse to pay salaries of persons not vaccinated if they do not test every 14 days?

The leader said in light of recent developments around the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for people under the age of 40, why were Montserratians being treated differently, and not given a choice to use an alternative vaccine.

“The government needs to improve its approach in dealing with you the citizens of this island. The Government’s messaging is poor, incoherent, devoid of logic. What we are now seeing is discrimination, underhanded threats and further application of pressure on you the citizens of the country. Our government is failing us at a time when we need their leadership most.”

Listen to the full statement here: https://montserratradioecho.wordpress.com/2021/05/10/monday-may-10-2021-a-statement-by-leader-of-the-opposition-hon-paul-lewis/