No mandatory vaccine directives for MPs on Parliament premises

The Second Ordinary Session of Parliament, which opened yesterday has been adjourned to Tuesday, November 9.

The adjournment followed the lack of required quorum at the first day of the sitting. Government Members of Parliament (MPs) were present but only three of the 22 MPs from the Opposition Bloc were present in the Parliament Chambers yesterday.

The absences on the first day of the sitting is covered under the Standing Orders of Parliament. This means the MPs who were absent yesterday morning are protected under the Standing Orders.

A close source from the MPs alluded that the absences yesterday followed the uncertainty over the MPs who have not been vaccinated, following the exchange between the Deputy Prime Minister, Ishmael Kalsakau and the MP for Ambrym constituency, John Salong, on social media.

However, Clerk of the national Parliament, Raymond Manuake, told Daily Post that so far there have been no formal directives making it a must for MPs to get vaccinated before entering Parliament premises. This means MPs who have not receive their vaccines are free to attend parliament sessions, same as those who are vaccinated.

Manuake said they are implementing COVID-19 protocols, providing hand sensitizers, ensuring there are handwashing stations, as well making masks available for the MPs.

The Parliament Clerk said Parliament has no record of how many MPS have been vaccinated so far.

Meanwhile, Deputy Leader of the Opposition and MP for Torres constituency, Christophe Emelee said for him personally, the safety of the 52 MPs and the staff of parliament are not safe.

Mr. Emelee said it is a matter of urgency, thus COVID-19 transmission and protective measures must be applicable when the Parliament is in session.

He noted the recent two COVID-19 border cases which resulted in the Government applying some restrictive measures, particularly to avoid big gatherings, such as the postponement of Fest’Napuan.

The Torres MP said this is certainly a good example of the need to take appropriate measures to protect the people of Vanuatu.

With the ongoing parliament session, he said there is concern over appropriate precautionary measures such as social distancing as only some are vaccinated and others still unvaccinated, whether over personal or medical reasons.

He said lack of appropriate measures will expose MPs and Parliamentary staff to potential contamination and virus transmission.

The Deputy Opposition Leader said Parliament must lead by example, and he fears they are sending the wrong message with 52 MPs plus Parliamentary staff sitting in close proximity in a room for hours.

Emelee said whatever the COVID-19 threat level, MPs should promote a behavioral change for the future to be ready to face a highly probable COVID-19 spread upon borders reopening.

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