Antigua & Barbuda Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, Monday cut short a Saint Lucia vacation with his family to return home after police in St John’s confronted citizens on Sunday and fired tear gas to disperse them.
Thee protesters were demonstrating against what they view as mandatory COVID-19 vaccination.
“I could not remain away from home and on vacation when political trouble-makers and known criminals are trying to subvert, undermine and destroy our country and the interests of our people, by misleading innocent people,” Browne declared as he arrived at the V.C. Bird International Airport.
In a subsequent address to the nation, the Antigua & Barbuda Prime Minister asserted that ironically, politicians who have inoculated themselves against the ravages of COVID-19 continue to prey on the erroneous belief by some unsuspecting persons, that the COVID-19 vaccine in harmful, despite all the evidence to the contrary.
“They were quick to appear on the UPP-aligned radio stations and social media condemning the police and inciting disorder and lawlessness,” Browne asserted.
“Lawlessness is what the UPP knows – disruption and disturbance are their traditional methods of operation,” he said of the opposition.
He made it clear that his administration does not fear or discourage peaceful and constructive protest within the confines of the law.
“We welcome peaceful protestations as we see them as potential opportunities to continue to realign our policies in resolving differences and satisfying the requirements of our people,” Browne observed.
But he recalled that the government has made it abundantly clear that absolutely no one will be vaccinated if they do not wish to be.
However, he explained that the government has an obligation to protect the wider community.
“It would be highly irresponsible, if not a reckless and careless government that does not seek to protect the population of the country from infection by deadly virus. All that we require is that frontline workers and public servants who do not wish to be vaccinated, take a free COVID test every two weeks. This is to control the spread of the disease in the event that they contract the virus and provide responsive medical interventions to prevent possible hospitalisation and death,” Browne observed.
“How could anyone protest against so-called mandatory vaccinations that do not exist? Why protest against a vaccine that you are not required to take?” The Antigua & Barbuda Prime Minister asked in relation to Sunday’s activity.