Coronavirus
ATG | Sep 17, 2021

‘Prove COVID hoax and I’ll knight you’, Gaston Browne says to disgruntled Antiguan Government worker

Gavin Riley

Gavin Riley / Our Today

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A war of words erupted on Facebook as Government employee Stan Richards challenged Prime Minister Gaston Browne. (Photos: Facebook @megatron6933, UWITV)

Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne is taking a no-nonsense approach to government workers hitting out against the sweeping coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination mandate imposed by his administration.

One particular state employee, Stan Richards, a steel bender/maintenance worker at the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) according to his Facebook profile, slammed the vaccine mandate as inhumane.

A maskless Richards began his viral Facebook Live video singing parts of God Bless Antigua by Robert Margetson, claiming the “politicians have forgotten that”.

In the video, Richards, who indicated he was yet to be vaccinated, said the mandate has cemented the decision in his mind and he would prefer to lose his job than take the jab.

Richards, standing outside the Villa Polyclinic on Pares Village Main Road in Antigua, was outraged at the number of people ‘willfully scrambling like sheep’ to get tested, if, in a matter of days, the result would be nullified by the government.

APUA maintenance worker, Stan Richards. (Photo: Facebook @megatron6933)

He said he was notified by APUA’s Human Resource department not to use company time to spread his falsities, however, Richards defied the order and said “a fi mi time this”.

“Claudine, mi done know mi a lose mi job ’cause me nah tek NO VACCINE! Keep it clean, no vaccine,”

Richards was then confronted by a member of the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda, who he ‘put in his place’ for encroaching on his freedom of speech.

Kissing his teeth, Richards chastised the officer and asked, “So me cyah talk in Antigua all of a sudden? Me nuh fear none a yuh. God alone me fear.”

Eight minutes into his rant, Prime Minister Browne himself joined the Facebook Live stream and indicated he will be in contact with the management of APUA to ensure he wasn’t wasting government resources and time.

“Stan Richards, you should not be doing this on government’s time. Use your own time to spread your ignorant diatribe. I will be having a word with [mgmt] of APUA to make sure that you do not abuse their resources, (time) without disciplinary action,” Browne replied.

Richards, adamant he would not stand for what he called the Browne Administration’s ‘tyranny’, answered angrily (and confusingly), “WHAT YOU SAY AND NOTHING IS THE SAME TOO ME!!!!!”, tagging the prime minister for added measure.

Browne, fed up with the back-and-forth responded that if Richards was so sure the COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t ‘real’ as he claimed, then he should “prove it”.

“Put your mask on, you blasted idiot. Go and contract COVID and prove to us it is a hoax and we will knight you,” the Antiguan leader said.

(Photo: Twitter @jmoulfrancis)

Should Richards be successful, he would be bestowed with the Order of the National Hero—Antigua and Barbuda’s highest national honour, and join the likes of Sir Vere Bird, Prince Klass, Dame Georgiana Robinson, Sir George Walter, Sir Vivian Richards and Sir Lester Bird.

The video, viewed thousands of times on Facebook, has attracted mixed views from Antiguans across social media, which was birthed in reaction to the vaccine mandate ordered for workers paid on the state’s wallet effective Monday, September 20.

Guided by the new measure, all government workers will be asked to stay at home until they can present proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

Employees who fail to comply with the mandate have been informed that they will not be paid a salary or wage for the period of non-compliance with the new policy.

Antigua and Barbuda has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases due to the dominance of the Delta variant.

In the last 24 hours, the Ministry of Health and the Environment has confirmed 159 new cases, bringing the national tally to 2,463. The country is managing 857 active cases.

Situational analysis of the coronavirus pandemic in Antigua and Barbuda. Data is current as at September 16. (Photo: Facebook @InvestingForWellness)

A total of 1,551 persons have made a full recovery from the infectious disease, while 55 patients have died due to coronavirus-related complications.

A ray of hope shines for Antigua, however, as the twin-island country boasts the highest vaccination rates in all of CARICOM.

As of September 16, 36,564 persons have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while another 8,170 received their first dose, reaching ‘partially protected’ status.

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