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The Irfaan Ali regime continues to manage the pandemic in a hodge podge manner and is making decisions as they go along based on gut feelings not science, law and appropriate resources. It is no wonder there is so much confusion surrounding the virus and vaccination hesitancy. They must take responsibility for the chaos being created in society and the discrimination against certain regions and groups.
The locking out of healthcare workers in Lethem, Linden/Region 10, and those who wanted to access health institutions for care is an indictment on the regime. It speaks to the level they will stoop to abuse their authority even in the face of a deadly virus. After initially sending workers home, locking out others, and preventing minibus and hire car drivers from plying their trade for not being vaccinated they have since turned around and temporarily lifted the order.
But in the new order they have left in place a mandatory decision that families who are taking their sick or pregnant families to the hospital must either be vaccinated or show a negative covid test. How dumb. They expect persons to know when their family will get sick and need hospital care. These are the people who are making decisions about our lives and bodies and basic common sense is eluding them.
I am being convinced every day, by their actions, that what they are doing is designed to stoke confrontation. Over the last week they have changed the rules several times. You would go to bed at night and not be sure what rule would be in place the next morning. It is nothing but gut feelings they are applying to a matter this grave and reacting with brute force and ignorance when citizens protest decisions that show no regard for any universally acceptable principles.
It is pure ad-hockery. Then we have the Minister of Health, who is on public record acknowledging Guyana does not have the facility to determine the efficacy and effectiveness of any of the COVID vaccines, but at the same time the regime is insisting Guyanese take a vaccine not yet approved by the bonafide international health agency. The Sputnik V vaccine, which is mired in controversy, is yet to be approved for authorised use by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The Ali regime knew this before they spent millions of taxpayers’ dollars on the product.
The vaccine may well satisfy the required standard for approval, but until such time only vaccines approved for use by the WHO should be acquired and used in Guyana. Citizens’ lives matter. Mandating the use of a vaccine not yet approved is saying to citizens that our government doesn’t care what happens to us, or at least some of us.
Further, the regime does not have the authority to mandate and should therefore embrace other approaches to encourage people to participate in the COVID programme. What they are doing is unconscionable, inhumane and hilterite. They have crossed the line and citizens must respond with zero tolerance to their transgression and placing the lives of all Guyanese in jeopardy. They have created an environment of mistrust, unease and conflict around this issue.
Every government has a duty to work with all stakeholders and address their concerns, fear or hesitancy. There must be collaborative approaches consistent with laws, such as Article 13 of the Constitution that mandates the involvement of citizens and groups in the management and decision-making processes of the state on matters that impact their wellbeing, and Article 149C that mandates similar requirements for the trade union.
In the case of testing, Section 47 (3) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act tasks employers with the duty to pay the “worker’s cost for medical examination or test required by the medical surveillance programme or required by regulations.” People should not be paying to have any covid test stipulated by any employer, be it government or private sector. Neither should they be paying for any test required by the government to work or access any public building. That cost must be borne by the state or employer because this is a pandemic, and we are under a national medical surveillance programme.
If we roll over and allow the regime to trample on time-honoured principles and practices, our greatest threat to survival, health and safety won’t be the pandemic but accepting injustices which will likely have a domino effect on other spheres of our lives. We deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. Our lives and welfare, if these don’t matter to them, must matter to us. Now more than ever we must demand a different approach to handling the crisis for the health and safety of all are at stake.