Gonsalves outlines terms for rehiring unvaccinated workers
Kingstown – The government of St Vincent & the Grenadines is now willing to rehire public sector workers who lost their jobs last year after failing to take a COVID-19 vaccine as required by law.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves made the announcement on Thursday saying that the Cabinet received the advice from Chief Medical Officer Dr Simone Keizer-Beache.
He said that following a briefing from health officials, including Medical Officer of Health Dr Roger Duncan, the Cabinet agreed on a “new regime”, which the chambers of Attorney General Jaundy Martin will draft into law.
“I want to make it plain that this is not reinstatement of teachers,” Gonsalves said. “This is not a question of an automatic reinstatement of teachers because to say it is an automatic reinstatement of teachers would be to suggest that the teachers were not legally, constitutionally out of their jobs because they did not choose to take the vaccine and follow the requirement.
“And clearly they expressed an interest in employment as teachers. Those who had not followed the requirement and, therefore, had abandoned their jobs under the law, they would be required to follow the conditions, including periodic testing.”
Gonsalves said vaccination and booster shots will remain a requirement for existing and new health care workers.
“But there is a principle which is applied called a layered approach – the police, people at the Port Authority and relevant public servants defined in the regulation – for employment, the vaccine will not be required,” the prime minister said.
Instead, the regime will focus on face masks, hand sanitisation, spacing, and ventilation.
“But it will have built in the system the vaccine advocacy programme, still encouraging people to take the vaccine because it is still the best defence,” Gonsalves said.
He said that teachers and other adult staff in learning institutions will have to adhere strictly to a number of measures.
“For unvaccinated teachers and other adult staff, 100 per cent mask, spacing between cohorts, strict cohorting — cohorting meaning if you are in the same — you all stick together,” he said.
Gonsalves noted that children might mix during breaks, but he added that there must be strict cohorting during class time.
The prime minister said there must be proper ventilation at education institutions, as well as a testing regime to stay on the job.
He said that the Health Services Sub-Committee of the National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO) will determine the screening regime.