Bus operators to hit the streets over vaccine imposition

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…minibus union says drivers will resist

Representatives of the United Mini-bus Union (UMU) on Thursday took a unanimous decision to protest the imposition of the COVID-19 vaccine requirement on minibus operators.

With effect from August 1, 2021, public transportation operators are required to show proof of vaccination in order to ply their trade. President of the UMU, Eon Andrews told Village Voice News that the imposition is unlawful, and minibus operators have vowed to resist it.

He said both drivers and conductors are of the opinion that it is their right to choose whether to take the vaccine or not.

The unanimous decision taken by the members of the UMU comes hours after the main opposition – the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) called on the Government to take a different approach to vaccine hesitancy.

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Though underscoring the importance of being vaccinated against COVID-19, APNU+AFC said the rights of Guyanese ought not to be violated in the quest to tackle vaccine hesitancy.

In a statement on Thursday, the coalition said the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government has taken a dictatorial approach towards vaccine hesitancy as against one of consultation and collaboration.

“The APNU+AFC Coalition continues to encourage persons to take the vaccines as they become available. We, however, call on the PPP regime to desist from their dictatorial approach in handling this pandemic and to instead adopt a consultative and collaborative approach which respects the fundamental rights of our citizens,” APNU+AFC said.

Under the new COVID-19 Emergency Measures which took effect on August 1, unvaccinated persons are not permitted to visit public offices without appointments while persons seeking to utilize restaurants, bars, conference facilities, banquet facilities, casinos, and betting shops must present their vaccination cards and Identification (ID) Cards before access can be granted.

“We are appalled but not surprised by the means chosen by the PPP regime and some sections of the private sector to address vaccine hesitancy here in Guyana.  No one should be surprised by these steps given that the PPP has increasingly adopted and encouraged authoritarian methods of governance over the last year. However, we also note the pushback from all sections of the society to these draconian measures,” the coalition said.

APNU+AFC said a responsible, democratic approach to vaccine hesitancy must take the rule of law into account.

“Consultation with representatives of the people and key stakeholders is paramount, as it is only through a collaborative approach, that a useful strategy can be developed to tackle this pervasive resistance to COVID-19 vaccines, evident across ALL regions of the country,” the main opposition added.

APNU+AFC said it is cognizant of the International Conventions as well as local laws which govern a person’s rights in relation to medical interventions. These rights were outlined by the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) in a statement on July 31, 2021 entitled “It is illegal for any Guyanese, including employees to be vaccinated under duress!”

It was pointed out that the Medical Practitioners Act No. 16 of 1991 as well as the Patient Charter 2008 of the Ministry of Health, safeguard a person’s right to privacy and confidentiality as well as their right to consent and their right to refuse treatment and medical intervention.

The coalition maintains that the approach to reducing vaccine hesitancy cannot be to ignore the fact that citizens’ have legal rights.

The coalition contended that the country is the current dilemma due to the poor management of the pandemic by the Government. “The APNU+AFC Coalition maintains the position that vaccination of the population against the COVID-19 virus is necessary. We support vaccination and will continue to encourage all who can, to get vaccinated to protect not only themselves but their loved ones. We must however highlight that the current conundrum in which we find ourselves is a direct result of the abysmal failure of the installed PPP regime to properly manage the pandemic and competently respond to the vaccine hesitancy that exists,” it said.



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