Gabon Oil and utilities workers strike over COVID-19 measures

Gabon oil workers

Gabon’s oil workers’ union and water and electricity workers’ union began a general strike on Tuesday in protest against COVID-19 restrictions and the cost of PCR tests, they said.

“We hereby inform you of the launch of an unlimited general strike which will cover all companies in oil and related activities, water and electricity sectors throughout the national territory,” said a statement signed by the striking trade unions.

The OPEC member produces about 200,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude. The oil workers’ union, ONEP, has recurrent standoffs with the state which have in the past paralyzed the economy.

Officially, oil revenues provide the state with 60% of its budget.

A government spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

Compared with neighboring countries in Central Africa, Gabon has imposed the most restrictive measures against COVID-19. A health pass showing proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test result is required to enter public spaces, and anyone who is unvaccinated is subject to a 9pm to 5am curfew.

For travel between capital Libreville and the rest of the country, anyone who is unvaccinated must show a negative test.

The striking unions have made several demands, including the elimination of the health pass and the lowering of the cost of PCR tests, which is set at 20,000 CFA francs ($34.77) or 50,000 CFA francs ($86.92) for a same-day result.

Gabon has administered enough vaccine doses to cover about 13% of its population of about 2 million, according to data collected by Reuters. It has reported 43,939 infections and 295 coronavirus-related deaths since the pandemic began.

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