Chief Secretary: Vaccine mandate a recipe for disaster

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Farley Augustine –

Chief Secretary Farley Augustine has described as impractical the position of the Prime Minister that by mid-January, all public servants and employees at state agencies, including national security, will be required to be vaccinated to go to work, or they can choose to stay home without pay.

At the weekly post-Executive Council news conference on Wednesday, Augustine declared, “That is a recipe for disaster.”

The Tobago House of Assembly (THA) currently employs approximately 60 per cent of the island’s workforce.

Augustine quoted Dr Rowley’s statistics which showed 50 per cent of the staff of the Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA) is unvaccinated.

“I want you to understand what this means. If we say to the unvaccinated TRHA workers: ‘Don’t come to work, you won’t get paid – you won’t be laid off, you still part of the establishment, just don’t come to work,’ you can expect to go to the hospital and only see meet 50 per cent of the staff there. That is a recipe for disaster.

“It means we are getting more dead people than we are getting right now. And I don’t think that is even practical as far as Tobago is concerned.”

He said from a cursory assessment, it would appear if this route is taken, the vaccinated who would be showing up to work would also not get paid.

“We won’t have enough people to process salaries. We won’t have enough people for the functioning of the THA…”

He said the Assembly has no control over staff paid by the Central Government but for those employed by the THA, the Chief Administrator is already looking into the situation.

Premnath Ramkissoon receives his booster shot of the covid19 vaccine at a drive-through mass vaccination site at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain. – Photo by Sureash Cholai

“Police and fire and air traffic control – those are under the remit of the Central Government and not the THA. The THA does not pay those categories of workers.

“But before we make a final determination on what we would do with our workers that we pay, I have asked the Chief Administrator and she has sent a circular out to all departments of the THA asking to get an assessment of the vaccinated versus the unvaccinated and that will help us determine the route we will take. We cannot have a situation where the cost of the candle is more than the cost of the funeral.”

He said the THA is assessing the situation and the implications for Tobago.

“We are treading the situation cautiously, notwithstanding the fact that there were no consultations with anybody – no one from the Central Government reached out to us…so we could have given them an assessment beforehand of what our staffing situation is vis-a-vis those who are vaccinated versus those who are unvaccinated.”

The Division of Health, Wellness and Social Protection on Wednesday reported 20 new covid19 cases which took the active total to 1,396 – 54 patients in state isolation, 1,322 in home isolation and six in ICU.

There were also three more deaths, which pushed the island’s fatalities to 174.

The division said 23,816 people are partially vaccinated and 22,879 are fully vaccinated. The division said 2,462 people have received boosters.