CMC:- The St. Vincent and the Grenadines government has mandated that teachers and other school staff members be vaccinated against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“On the basis of the advice which we have received, including advice from the medical authorities, those on the Health Services Subcommittee of NEMO (National Emergency Management Organisation), it was decided to put in these regulations, to include teachers as frontline workers,” Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said.
He said that this would also apply to “those who’re working at the schools, the cooks and so on, everybody who comes in touch with children, students.
“There are basic reasons for this. First of all, there is an uptick in the number of persons who are contracting COVID, the positivity rate is in excess of 10 per cent,” Gonsalves said, adding that the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the country was rising.
“”There were 12 deaths for a long time and just over a week, we have had eight, almost one a day. Now, that’s serious business,” Prime Minister Gonsalves said, adding that the positivity rate has moved from under five per cent and, in some cases, as low as one per cent to in excess of 17 per cent.”
The positivity rate is the percentage of persons testing in a particular reporting period as a fraction of the number of persons tested.
“So there was that, the epidemiological situation, the way the numbers are rising and all that’s happening around us.
“Secondly, the fact that we have a number of young people, students who have been contracting COVID and parents and teachers have been calling and the general public for us to include teachers and on balance it was decided, yes, given what is taking place,” Gonsalves said, noting the decision is for the time of the public health emergency.
“And when the pandemic ends, hopefully, it will end sooner rather than later, then the life of those regulations would expire when the public health emergency is revoked by the Minister of Health.
“Now, among the teachers, the secondary school teachers, I have seen some numbers, maybe one-third of them vaccinated. Schools like the Grammar School, for instance, I was really surprised to see that of the 57 members of staff, only five are vaccinated.”
Gonsalves said that at the St. Martin’s Secondary School, all of the staff are vaccinated.
“So you have these extremes. A lot of schools are in between these extreme points,” he said, noting that the government had made a decision that was to be implemented on April 12, when teachers would present either their certificate of vaccination or a PCR test or they couldn’t come onto the school compound.
“Now, the situation has changed. And, apart from the uptick, you are now having the variants: the Delta, the Gamma, and the Mu. These are more easily transmissible and the Delta is rampant in the country,” Gonsalves said.
“People tend to forget that this virus needs a host. The host is the human being and the virus moves because the human being moves and you come into contact with one another and it’s easily transmissible, this particular variant and it’s more serious to make you sick more easily.”
St. Vincent and the Grenadines has recorded 21 deaths and 3, 508 positive cases linked to the virsus since the first case was reported in March last year.