(CMR) Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines Dr. Ralph Gonsalves was injured after he was hit by an object thrown by a protester from a large crowd gathered outside Parliament on Thursday. Citizens, including public sector workers, are reportedly protesting amendments to the public health bill and mandatory vaccination.
Dr. Gonsalves was reportedly hit while on his way back to Parliament. He was seen bleeding from his head and had to be treated. However, his injury was not considered serious.
Police in riot gear attempted to control protesters on the streets of Kingstown on Thursday. Protesters reportedly breached barriers intended to keep uninvited guests away from the Parliamentary building.
According to iWitness News, the government is proposing to remove the word “voluntary” from a section of the law that speaks to vaccination against an illness that has triggered the declaration of a public health emergency — as is the case with COVID-19.
An earlier version of the proposed amendments also said that people could be exempted from such vaccination on medical or religious grounds.
Opposition Leader Godwin Friday told protesters that the government was proposing to omit the section of the law that speaks to omission by reason of conscience, thereby making medical grounds the only basis on which a person can object to vaccination.
“But remember, the way it was written, it was suggesting that somehow if you get a certificate from your doctor saying you are not supposed to take that treatment, that the chief medical officer can come between them and decide that you have to take the treatment,” Friday explained, citing an earlier version of the proposed changes.
“They have divided it into two sections and this is the procedure: if you want to get an exemption from an order for treatment, under the Medical Health Act, the first stage is that you have to get a certificate … from a doctor that is acceptable to the chief medical officer,” Friday said, according to iWitness News.
He went on to explain that “… in the second part of it, even if you get a certificate from a doctor that is acceptable to the chief medical officer, the chief medical officer may still require you to undergo an examination by one or more practitioners that she says you have to go to.”.
The opposition leader said that is the first hurdle, adding that a second hurdle is that the CMO, having rejected a person’s physician’s findings, can order that a doctor of the CMO’s choice examine the person.
“And only the doctor that … the chief medical officer specifies, that is the only doctor you can go to. So the government now is going to choose your doctor for you. I swear to God, this is what is before the Parliament now,” Friday said.