PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley has issued a mandate for all government workers to be vaccinated by mid-January.
Speaking on Saturday during a media conference, Rowley said that while there will be exemptions for those with medical issues, unvaccinated employees will be expected to abide by certain rules and regulations.
“Outside of that, the government’s workplace will require, if you are a government employee, that you show your vaccination status, failing which you would not be encouraged in the workplace. (And) if you are not in a position to come to the workplace, you will be on leave on your own and you would be furloughed. Meaning, you will still have a job at the establishment, but you choosing not to be able to come to work under the conditions laid down, you then will not be paid.”
The prime minister also announced that the Public Service, except those in essential services, will be shut down from December 24 to January 2 and urged employees to use the period to get vaccinated.
In addition, the Prime Minister said that as of Monday, the beaches will reopen from 5am to 12 noon (local time), however rivers will remain closed.
He added that no consumption of alcohol, loud music or partying will be allowed and beachgoers will be required to wear their masks when not in the water.
Meanwhile, in response to the mandate, the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Commerce, has commended the Rowley administration for “taking a firm stance on the issue of vaccination in the workplace.”
In a statement on Saturday, the Chamber of Commerce said the government has taken visible leadership on this next phase of dealing with COVID in the workplace.
“Cognizant that we are in the throes of a worldwide pandemic and has made a bold decision with a single-minded purpose to do what is right for Trinidad and Tobago, our citizens and economy.”
The statement added that the country is in a very difficult situation – and as the single largest employer in the country (the pandemic) “ has left the government with no choice but to take the actions it did to deal with the low vaccination levels, they have set also the framework for other employers to follow. This approach must be a joint effort and we are committed to assisting in whatever way we can. We see this as a key imperative to address the level of vaccination.”
The release added that the mandate is not meant to restrict personal freedoms.
“It is to preserve them and prevent lockdowns or heavier restrictions.”
Concerning the decision to open beaches, the TT Chamber said that this will help to balance mental stress.
“This adds to the realization that further lockdowns will not be the course of action pursued. The T&T Chamber firmly advocates on behalf of the over 650,000 citizens of the country who have been compliant. We are pleased that the actions taken are directed at the unvaccinated to encourage vaccination and to protect those who legitimately cannot be vaccinated.”
“This is a highly charged environment with persons firmly positioned on either end of the spectrum, either pro or anti vaxx, but we cannot sit idly by while our country is ravaged by COVID and our economy is decimated with thousands of people dying.”
The chamber noted that all citizens must be responsible for doing the right thing for our country – “our families and our co-workers by obeying the health protocols in place and getting vaccinated.”
“We can overcome this challenge but we need every citizen, every business and every politician working together with a single-minded focus on protecting our people and our economy.”
On Saturday, the twin island republic recorded 33 deaths – the highest daily figure since the start of the pandemic.
The latest fatalities include 11 elderly males, nine elderly females, five middle-aged males and five middle-aged females.
The Ministry of Health also announced 956 new positive cases.
Active cases have risen 15,339, while the country’s caseload stands at 84,793.