Timor government may punish public officials who refuse covid vaccination

Timorese health staff testing for covid-19
Timorese health staff carrying out swab tests for covid-19 in Dili. Image: Tatoli News

By Antonio Sampaio in Dili

The Timor-Leste government may apply disciplinary action to public officials doing face-to-face work who refuse to take the vaccine, while maintaining that vaccination against covid-19 is not mandatory.

Minister of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers Fidelis Magalhães admitted the government’s tough stance, explaining that the vaccine was not mandatory — but that it was required of public officials who have to work in person.

“A person who rejects the vaccine cannot be present at the workplace,” he said.

“If you are a civil servant who refuses and cannot be present when you are asked to be present, this is disobedience through failure to fulfill your duty,” the official told Lusa.

“There is disciplinary action for not going to work, for not showing up at work, in accordance with the law and the regulations,” he said.

A government resolution of May 19 – which aims to intensify the vaccination rollout in the country – already determines that employees in face-to-face work must have partial or complete vaccination.

This text defines “partial or complete vaccination as a relevant criterion to be adopted by the public administration in determining the employees, agents and workers in the provision of face-to-face work”.

The same text – which sets a target of 5000 daily inoculations – also guides all government departments “towards approving the rules and procedures necessary to ensure compliance with the covid-19 preventive measures in force, in the internal functioning of services and in public service”.

Vaccine not mandatory
In no case, however, is the vaccine mandatory or if any sanctions are determined for refusing to take it.

“It is a delicate situation between mandatory vaccination and the need to increase the number of people vaccinated,” Magalhães said.

“The government is the highest body of public administration. As the highest body, it has a duty to guarantee the safety of its own employees — and the maximum safety is that workers are not infected with the virus.”

Tatoli News reports that Timor-Leste health authorities registered 231 covid-19 cases yesterday, 215 in Dili, and 16 in other municipalities. Officials said 158 people had recovered.

Antonio Sampaio is the bureau chief of Lusa News Agency in Dili. This article is republished with permission.

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