STEPHENVILLE – On May 26, the provincial government announced that the COVID-19 vaccine regulations, which required employees and service providers of many businesses, facilities, and organizations to be fully vaccinated or have approved medical exemption, would be suspended as of June 1. John Haggie, Minister of Health and Community Services, said the status of COVID-19 in the province will continue to be monitored. “Throughout the pandemic, we have been guided by Public Health advice aimed at protecting the residents of Newfoundland and Labrador. While these regulations for employees and service providers of specified businesses will end based on our current situation, we will continue to monitor the situation carefully. If our situation down the road suggests we need to enforce these regulations again, we will reinstate them to protect our vulnerable populations." The Department of Finance issued the following statement in response to email inquiries: "Given the current epidemiology of the province, a decision has been made not to extend them at this time." The policy was initially implemented in December 2021 to help maintain safety in the workplace, stated the email. “It also offered additional health protection for all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians given the evidence of the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine.” The department added that employees who refused the mandatory vaccination and were forced to leave their place of employment, may have the opportunity to return to work, depending on the situation. “Core public service employees who did not comply with the mandatory vaccination policy were considered absent without pay on December 17, 2021. Those employees are eligible to return to work from a policy compliance perspective on June 1, 2022.” The mandatory regulations were met with mixed reviews across the province, but with the suspension for public sector workers, many small businesses and organizations are feeling a sense of relief. Crystal Aucoin, owner of the Hair Room in Stephenville, said news of the regulations being suspended put her at ease. “Since the mandatory vaccinations have been lifted, I feel relieved, as if the world is a safer place without COVID being such a huge threat.” Aucoin said the initial decision to put these regulations in place were something that she didn’t agree with, especially owning a small business where, if she had refused the vaccination, she would have been subject to huge fines that would be extremely difficult to recover from. “I definitely didn't approve of the mandatory vaccines and especially the way necessities were taken away. Some things may not be pertinent to everyday survival, but are mandatory for mental health and threatening the livelihood of pretty much everyone who works seemed like a terrible way to force us into cooperation.” Aucoin said, although she is satisfied with the decision, it seems odd to remove the restrictions now, after many had to receive the vaccination in order to keep their businesses open. “COVID hasn't been stopped with or without the vaccines. It may have lessened the severity, but the numbers locally spiked more since the vaccines were distributed. With the lift now, it just seems silly since there are so many people who are fully vaccinated."
Jaymie White, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wreckhouse Weekly News