THE PRIME Minister’s decision to delay the start of safe zones for state workers is disappointing. It will be, for some unfortunate souls, a fatal waste of time, and sends the wrong signal.
Dr Rowley may believe the timing of his original announcement of this measure almost a month ago could have been better. The intervening holiday period was full of distractions, even if public servants got special time off to get jabbed.
He may also hope the findings of his inquiry appointed to report on hospitals and covid19 deaths might help fight misinformation and hesitancy by underlining that it is the virus that is to blame for the mounting death toll, not malpractice.
We cannot envision a judge striking down necessary and proportionate public health measures, but the Cabinet may also view the matter of bringing new law on this issue as overly risky: a ruling against the State would set back the whole public health regime and force the PNM to work with the UNC in Parliament.
Yet, as any doctor treating the scores of patients who are daily dying of covid19 might tell you, time is of the essence. This additional delay wrought by the PM based on the hope that numbers will improve fast enough is hard to justify.
Dr Rowley does not wish his decision to be seen as related to pressure placed on his administration in recent weeks by the trade union movement, as well as by the politicisation of this matter by the Opposition.
But few will interpret the postponement as anything but an instance of the Government bowing to unwarranted agitation on a crucial policy measure integral to public health and safety.
Worse, the Prime Minister’s move will also be viewed by some as something of a concession to anti-vaxxer sentiment.
Dr Rowley is correct, however, to observe some people have become insensitive to covid19 deaths. This is precisely why he should be hastening his measures, not deferring them.
In this regard, it is notable that the vaccination rate among public-sector workers in several government ministries and agencies is still not where it should be (though improved), and in some instances shockingly low.
It is worth questioning how proactive individual Cabinet ministers, including the PM – who until very recently had been low-profile since the beginning of the year – have been in getting their own staff to take the vaccines.
On Saturday, Dr Rowley ascribed undue weight to arguments made by the trade union sector, saying they are seeing the issue of vaccination (by now a standard measure accepted by billions of people all over the world) as one of “personal choice” rather than collective responsibility.
“It is saying let us leave it to choice and who live, live and who dead, dead,” the PM summarised.
But in delaying a measure needed to protect us all from the omicron wave, the State is helping to bring about this outcome.