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Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley says employers asking unvaccinated staff to take the vaccine or pay for PCR COVID tests on a regular basis, are making decisions based on their responsibility to the population.

He was responding to a question on how he felt about employers’ treatment of unvaccinated staff at the weekly media briefing on Saturday at the Anne Mitchell Gift Auditorium, Scarborough Library in Tobago. Dr Rowley said employers are not just responsible for staff.

Some well-established businesses have made COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for staff. Others have informed unvaccinated staff that they will not be rostered for work or must double mask and wear shields and take the PCR tests often at their own expense.

“The employers who are making that requests of the staff, they have a responsibility not just to the rest of the staff, but to the rest of the population,” the PM said.

“…Basically, what that policy is doing is asking people to assure others that they are not carrying the virus and posing a threat to persons who have exercised their rights in a different way.

“It’s being discussed in the context of your right as a person, but I am sure by now you all know that we have all restrictions on rights and your personal behaviour.”

He also called for employers to show restraint.

“Let us not exploit the situation to the disadvantage unfairly of others, but by the same token, if you (employees) have taken a position, there are other positions that flow from that.”

‘We give up some leisure for livelihood’

Addressing matters in Tobago, he said he had heard the calls from people to reopen beaches and bars to help the tourism industry but the Government would not change its policy, risking increased infections and jeopardising the reopening of schools in September.

“With respect to the beaches, we would love for all of us to be out there, but because of what the alternative is, the alternative of having everybody out there doing everything we want to do is that we can find ourselves, all of us backing up to a place that we don’t want to go.”

“We are making sacrifices in areas, not that you are unimportant not that you are a noncontributor (tourism sector)…We give up some leisure for livelihood.”

Dr Rowley said the Ministry of Health would focus its attention on vaccinating as many people in the retail sector as possible so that sector can reopen next. He called on caretakers, gardeners, hairdressers, and masseurs to get vaccinated so the personal services sector can reopen in two weeks.

He said as the country celebrates Emancipation Day on Sunday, people should make it their pledge to “Emancipate themselves from COVID and vaccinate.”

Asked whether the country’s 9 pm to 5 am curfew remains in effect although it is a long holiday weekend, Dr Rowley said the hours had not changed.