Hon Paul Lewis Statement on COVID-19 Vaccine and Job Security For Montserrat's Essential Workers

Hon Paul Lewis Statement on COVID-19 Vaccine and Job Security For Montserrat's Essential Workers

The Government of Montserrat’s announcement of a shorter quarantine time for persons who have been vaccinated is welcomed news by the public, although most people were expecting a 7-day release period instead of the 10 days the government announced.

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, triggers some pertinent questions that I am here today to put forward.

What is puzzling about this 14-day repeat testing for essential workers and civil servants that the government wants to introduce, is that 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. I could have understood if we had some COVID-19 cases on island and they introduced this new measure, but with no COVID-19 cases, many citizens are questioning the logic of this decision by the government.

(Listen to audio here or continue reading the text of the Statement below: 

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?

Clearly, this seemingly is an underhanded way in seeking to pressure essential workers and civil servants into taking the COVID-19 vaccine.

Is this the way our government now operates? Is this how COVID-19 policies are now being instituted with underhandedness, discriminatory practices and covert job security threats?

I submit on behalf of the citizens of this country, that 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.

Whilst considering this matter of two weeks repeat testing, I have to ask whether the government has the manpower and the resources to do all these repeat tests every two weeks? Did they honestly think this through? Is it really necessary and is it even practical?

Imagine fellow citizens, that it was this Government who 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?

Where will the resources and manpower to do all these test every two weeks come from? We demand answers and clarity Hon Premier.

We understand the reasons why this government would choose to test persons returning to Montserrat from COVID-19 hotspots after their 14-day quarantine, but why test persons living in COVID free Montserrat every 14 days who have not travelled into any COVID hotspot?

Furthermore, the government needs to provide more explanations for the citizens they are meant to serve. I am asking the question today, that if some workers miss the mandated two-week repeat testing, will they not be allowed to go to their jobs? Will the government of Montserrat be withholding their salaries?

I spoke of underhanded policy implementation earlier. In that vein, I ask this government now implementing this 14-day testing in the workplace – is this also a threat to fire workers who refuse to be vaccinated because your $50 voucher vaccine promotion backfired?

These are the main questions that need some fast and direct answers from this government.

If essential workers and civil servants are not vaccinated, are their jobs now being threatened by the government of Montserrat?

Will government also refuse to pay salaries of persons not vaccinated if they do not test every 14 days?

After researching information that has come to light about the development of blood clots in persons who received the AstraZeneca vaccine; the joint committee for vaccine and immunization in the United Kingdom advised the UK government on alternative vaccines for persons under the age of 40.

So here we have it that The UK Government agreed to alternative vaccines for its citizens as a precautionary measure. So, can the Governor of Montserrat or our elected Government Ministers explain why Montserratians are being treated differently?

Cabinet must be vigilant and forward thinking and seek the best and most appropriate advice from experts as to the best way forward for Montserrat’s vaccination drive. Government must not be seen to be dismissive and stubborn like our present Government is behaving. Instead, we need to have a Government that listens and takes all things into consideration towards making the best possible decision for our island.

Why is it that this Government thinks that it can get away with underhandedly intimidating workers by threatening their job security and their ability to earn and provide for their families?

Enough of this disrespect and disregard being shown to our people. This is not leadership from our Government but a cowardly and borderline authoritarian approach in a not so well thought out vaccination policy.

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.

Hon Paul J. Lewis
Leader of The Opposition, Montserrat