by KATHERINE RENTON
THE TAXI OPERATORS who work at the Argyle International Airport (AIA) and cruise ship terminals have mixed feelings about taking the Covid-19 vaccine despite the fact that they will have to do so if they want to continue operating in these areas.
As at Saturday, July 31, the directive is that taxi drivers operating at the AIA will be required to be fully vaccinated. According to an official at the airport, drivers inoculated with one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine that requires two doses for full immunity, are not yet allowed to take passengers. Frequent testing is apparently not an alternative.
This official explained that out of the cabbies who operate at the airport regularly, there are approximately 20 who are fully vaccinated, and two who have one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. Just before the directive was enforced, the individual estimated that 30 drivers were working at the airport regularly.
These figures are a fraction of the total taxi operators who once worked at the airport before the pandemic crippled flights.
When asked whether there was pushback from the taxi drivers, the official said that the complaint had been that they were given about a week’s notice, and some felt that they hadn’t been given sufficient time.
In terms of whether there had been any incidents following the requirement, the individual said that none could be recalled.
“…There were a few hiccups where some (drivers) were trying to see, because they have one dose, if they would be allowed, so I think one of them showed up on Saturday because the person didn’t get back to him,” the official stated. “I think one hotel sent someone with one dose as The official described it as a well organised process, with added security when the international flights arrive.
As it relates to the cruise lines, the 2021/2022 cruise season is expected to begin this Saturday, August 7, with the first call being to Port Elisabeth, Bequia.
Draft protocols for their return have been composed, and it is decided that a bubble concept will be applied. Anyone entering the bubble created, will be required to be vaccinated.
President of the SVG Taxi Association, Winston ‘Pops’ Morgan said that, as it relates to the bubble concept for the cruise ships, “they are saying that the guests are asking for persons that are vaccinated to deal with them. Now if the guest wants that, and you want to work in the industry, we will have to do.”
“…From an individual point of view, I don’t see me fighting against a process if the process is asking for vaccination. If you are applying for a job in any establishment and they’re asking for degree and diploma in whatever the job entails, you have to come with that.”
“I am fully vaccinated myself, I can’t see myself putting up that fight,” he added.
“There are persons there within our organisation who see differently who are not for, or have not made up their minds, but I think that is a personal decision” for them to make, Morgan said.
He does not know how many of the Association’s members operate from the AIA, but said that some are vaccinated, some have gotten one shot so far, and some are not vaccinated. Of their 120 total membership, at the last count about 40 were vaccinated.
Of those who are not vaccinated, the president reasoned that some are willing, and some have expressed a desire to wait on a Cuban vaccine. “I think at some point they will take it,” he said. President of the SVG Professionals Taxi Association, Arrington Burgin, also spoke regarding the Association’s reaction to the requirement.
“..Everybody has their opinion and right to choose and there are some members if I recall may have already taken their vaccine, but the majority have issues now with this new guideline they are putting down, there are persons having issues…” he explained. He added that it seems like some persons may be persuaded because of different reasons.
Their members total approximately 58, but Burgin does not believe that more than five have taken the jab. Around four of their members operate at the AIA.
Burgin mentioned that of the taxi drivers at the airport ”I know one driver says to me she really can’t deal with it.”
He himself is not vaccinated, and cites concerns about side effects, and effectiveness.
With the intention of many not to take the jab, the question follows whether they will continue in the port taxi business. “…They will drive their taxi but they will not go into the whole scheme of what the tourism authority was looking at,” Burgin revealed.
“As an individual I think that persons would like to exercise their rights and not being their rights trampled upon,” the president noted.
He felt that politicians “make the decision that could affect everybody else and not them because they could afford it, but affects the poorer person who actually depend on it and can’t afford it.”