27 individuals have officially been discharged from the Air Force for refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine, making them the first service members to be removed for disobeying the mandate. The Air Force gave its forces until Nov. 2 to get the vaccine, but thousands have refused or sought an exemption status.
On Monday, Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said that these are the first airmen to be administratively discharged for reasons involving the vaccine. She said all of them were in their first term of enlistment, so they were younger, lower-ranking personnel.
Politico reports that while “the Air Force does not disclose what type of discharge a service member gets, legislation working its way through Congress limits the military to giving troops in vaccine refusal cases an honorable discharge or general discharge under honorable condition.”
Stefanik said that none of the 27 discharged members sought any type of exemption such as medical, administrative or religious. As a result, they were formally removed from service for failure to obey an order. Stefanek said it is also possible that some had other infractions on their records, but all had the vaccine refusal as one of the elements of their discharge.
Politico adds, “Several officials from the other services said they believe that so far only the Air Force has gotten this far along in the process and discharged people over the vaccine refusal. According to the latest Air Force data, more than 1,000 airmen have refused the shot and more than 4,700 are seeking a religious exemption.”
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Freedom in the UK: Johnson ends ‘all Covid measures’ including mask wearing
The United Kingdom is enjoying a huge announcement. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced “the end of all Covid measures introduced to combat the Omicron variant – compulsory mask-wearing on public transport and in shops, guidance to work from home and vaccine certificates – from next week” reports The Guardian.
For those with coronavirus, the legal requirement for them to self-isolate will also be allowed to lapse when the regulations expire on March 24. Johnson also announced an immediate end for students to wear masks at secondary schools.
“From tomorrow we will no longer require face masks in classrooms and the Department for Education will shortly remove national guidance on their use in communal areas,” Johnson told the Commons.
“In the country at large we will continue to suggest the use of face coverings in enclosed or crowded spaces, particularly when you come into contact with people you don’t normally meet, but we will trust the judgment of the British people and no longer criminalise anyone who chooses not to wear one.”
The Prime Minister said Covid data was “showing that time and again this government got the toughest decisions right” and that plan B rules that were put in place in December could all be lifted from next Thursday, the day after a pre-existing review point.
The Guardian notes Britain had expected Johnson would soon be ending work-from-home guidance and the mandate to show a certificate proving vaccination or proof of a recent negative Covid test. However, the immediate lifting of mandatory mask rules will “come as a surprise to some.”
Johnson is receiving some push back from some teaching and health unions. The general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said ministers would “regret sending the wrong signal to the public for political expediency”.
Joint general secretary of the National Education Union Mary Bousted said, “While the trend amongst secondary aged children is down, it is however uncertain, due to the short time schools have been back since the Christmas holidays, that this trend will continue. Such uncertainty could lead to a pronounced risk of increased disruption with children and staff having to isolate.”
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