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Social Partnership talks about vaccines and testing

Social Partnership talks about vaccines and testing
Prime Minister Mia Mottley (GP)

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Attorney General Dale Marshall has been tasked with providing the Mia Mottley administration with a legal opinion on the civil and criminal liability associated with aspects of mandatory vaccination and mandatory testing for COVID-19.

And the results of that paper will set the table for a series of sectoral and national consultations on the way forward as Government tries to find a solution to the vexing problem of respecting people’s rights to choose whether they want to be vaccinated, the overall health of the nation and getting the economy back on track as more employers are making vaccination a requirement for employment.

Prime Minister Mia Mottley said Marshall has until August 6 to provide the legal opinion. She was speaking to the media and the nation after a meeting of the Social Partnership at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre on Tuesday night.

Mottley said sectoral consultations would be led by Minister of Labour Colin Jordan and Minister of Home Affairs Wilfred Abrahams. They will be joined by Minister of Health Jeffrey Bostic and Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw at four national consultations which will be held across zones. Bradshaw will oversee the national process as acting prime minister. Mottley announced she would be taking a break for two-and-a-half weeks in August.

The numbers at the venues will be determined by the COVID-19 Monitoring Unit and provision will be made for others to join the discussion via electronic means.

“This will allow us to give as many Barbadians, whether sectorally or nationally, the opportunity to be heard against the background of the legal opinion which is being received,” Mottley explained.

She reminded that while they would love to “reach consensus” as a country, Government would continue its mandate to consult and communicate and “govern” when required.

“Without prejudice to all of that, however, we have all agreed that it is in our interest to strongly advocate testing – regular testing – as well as vaccinations to be taken by all Barbadians and all persons living here,” the Prime Minister said.

“Why? Because we are satisfied beyond a shadow of a doubt that the vaccinations do reduce the level of sickness as well as the possibility of death and they do reduce the incidence of transmission with respect to persons being in the same place.”

As the country waits on the legal opinion, there will be a ramping up of public education surrounding these issues.

Representatives from other bodies in the Social Partnership also sounded their support.

Head of the Barbados Private Sector Association, Edward Clarke, said they would work with Government and the trade unions to find a solution, while general secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union, Senator Toni Moore, called for more education and information so the public was fully aware of the issues.

President of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados, Edwin O’Neal encouraged Barbadians to get vaccinated as a means of defence in “the war” against COVID-19 and also called for more education for those who have doubts and fears.

Geoffrey Roach, chairman of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association, which made its position known on the issue over the weekend, said they were looking forward to reviving the tourism industry and the meeting set the groundwork to move the process forward.

BHTA supports mandatory vaccination against COVID-19

The Social Partnership will be reconvened at the end of August to report to the country. (SAT)