ECONOMIC Freedom Fighters (EFF) president Kasonde Mwenda says February 5, 2021, has been declared the beginning of a countrywide work standoff if chain store workers, mobile money booth agents, marketeers and mini-bus drivers are not tested and prioritised for vaccination against COVID-19.

In a letter to President Edgar Lungu, Mwenda said government must commit to expeditiously test these workers, failure to which there could be a massive work stoppage in protest against the lack of COVID-19 vaccines.

“We, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party, in collaboration with labour organisations and civil society organizations – CSOs, will on behalf of the Zambian people declare 5th February, 2021, the beginning of a countrywide work standoff strike for chain store workers; mobile money booth agents; marketeers and minibus/tax drivers if government does not commit to expeditiously effect the following COVID-19 pandemic anti-escalation measures; administer countrywide COVID-19-tests and vaccinations to chain-store workers; mobile money booth agents; marketeers and mini-bus/taxi drivers. Those found positive should be quarantined and put on treatment immediately. Vaccinate teachers before schools open,” Mwenda wrote.

He alleged that chain store proprietors were hiding the fact that workers and managers were currently hospitalised with COVID-19, but the workers they were supervising had not been tested and continued serving the unsuspecting public.

“It has come to our attention that one of the leading causes of the recent spike of new COVID-19 infection surge is largely due to the poor adherence and enforcement of COVID-19 health guidelines by chain store proprietors, especially in Lusaka where workers from Shoprite and Game Stores at Manda Hill reported that their employers are hiding the fact that workers and notable (named) managers are currently hospitalised with COVID-19, yet the workers they were supervising have not been tested for COVID-19 and are mixing and serving the unsuspecting public who are shopping. This carelessness and disregard for the law is aiding the spread of COVID-19. The new strain has come ferociously, deadly and already many people have died, while our already strained health facilities are overwhelmed beyond capacity,” Mwenda stated.

He demanded that the mentioned target groups should be prioritised when the vaccine was eventually procured because they were a high risk group.

“With the recent report that government has procured COVID-19 vaccines, we are advising that apart from the health workers and elderly who are currently on the priority list for vaccination, chain store workers, marketeers and minibus/tax drivers be prioritised for receiving vaccinations. The mentioned groups are highly exposed to the virus due to the large interaction volumes of people they are exposed to. They are a high potential vector for transmitting the virus into our homes and killing our loved ones,” he stated.

He added that teachers should equally be vaccinated before schools re-opened.

And Mwenda said the need to preserve life should not be compromised to preserve the economy.

“Mr President, we are concerned about the need for our economy to be kept buoyant during this trying time. But let the need to preserve life not be compromised. We are calling for this work-standoff strike to preserve Zambian lives and not for purposes of destabilising the nation. We value peace and order just the same way we value life,” stated Mwenda.