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…UMU President said operators, conductors prepared to resist
Even with the two-week extension given to transportation operators and conductors to comply with the mandatory vaccination requirement to work, President of the United Minibus Union (UMU), Eon Andrews said that operators and conductors are prepared to resist as they do not want an extension but the freedom of choice.
With effect from August 1, 2021, public transportation operators were required to show proof of vaccination in order to ply their trade. This was gazetted in Guyana’s updated COVID-19 measures along with a string of other additions that upped the pressure on the unvaccinated.
However, following protests in Linden whereby the key Mackenzie/Wismar bridge was blocked preventing the flow of traffic, Health Minister, Dr. Frank Anthony announced a two-week extension — also for health workers — after which all are expected to comply.
“We maintain that there ought not to be any imposition of mandatory vaccination. That’s our thoughts, there must be a choice…we’re planning to resist it., we’re saying that it must not be mandatory,” Andrews told the Village Voice News. He said that what he has recognized is that the updated measures of the Government are meant to instil fear in the population to cause persons to be vaccinated, some of which would have abstained otherwise.
Andrews said that minibus operators and conductors are not pleased with this approach and feel disrespected that there was no form of communication between their representatives and the Government about the matter. “Nobody has spoken to us. They don’t think we’re important enough to be invited to talk,” Andrews said.
Furthermore, the UMU President pointed out that enough information about the vaccines has not been received by the public which remains hesitant for a number of reasons. He said that when the government is silent on matters such as the acquisition of vaccines and the use of vaccines unapproved by PAHO/WHO, it breeds fear among the operators and conductors who have not been met by Government representatives.
He said: “All we’re hearing is something in the gazette on Friday and then it comes out on Monday…we are not sure about anything because since they would have had the [discussion] about the third-party [supplier of vaccines] people are suspicious. Guyana is not an illiterate society, it’s a society. When these kinds of things happen we don’t know what’s the next thing they’re going to try to impose upon us.”
Andrews noted that it is interesting that when minibus operators and conductors were requesting the attention and action of the Government to ease the burden of high fuel prices, there was no response from the Government. He said that now actions are being taken that could further put the livelihood of transportation operators in jeopardy and the Government expects full and willing compliance. Andrews said: “We’re going to mobilize and get things to a stage where we must not reach that stage where they say you cannot work because you’d be attacking this sector.”