Full disclosure: I am fully vaccinated with booster and respect social distancing and other recommendations.
Tübingen, Germany, December 29, 2021, by Kazolias
Anti-government protests and rioting against Covid restrictions are rocking the EU from Holland to Greece, Germany and France to the UK and Italy. Measures taken to prevent the healthcare system from breaking down under Covid have strained our democracies to the breaking point.
This is no time to be young.
Youth cannot go dancing, no parties allowed, no popcorn in the cinema or drinks in the train (France), curfews, lockdowns and passes. It is a 1950s dystopian novel come true, a Big Brother police state where your Covid Pass and photo I.D. are checked to have a drink or get on a bus.
How Far is Too Far?
There is an argument to be made as to how much liberty are we willing to sacrifice to protect the fragile and for how long or whether we should do so at all?
As Covid spreads further under the much more contagious South African Variant-Bis, otherwise known as Omicron, hospitals are under pressure again to treat the rising number of cases
Both the unvaccinated and many vaccinated say they should not be penalized for those who are more at risk, notably the elderly and people with comorbidities. They also say it is an individual’s choice to be vaccinated or not and that the government cannot impose these measures on people to protect others.
One such measure was the French decision to vaccinate the less-at-risk five to eleven year-olds to protect the adult population. There is something rotten in the Kingdom of medicine and politics when you poison children to safeguard adults.
While there are ethical consideration to discuss, I want to stay on the political and economic in this paper.
“It’s the Economy Stupid”
Those opposed to the restrictions assert that if people are in danger, they are the ones who should stay home.
These arguments cannot be ruled out by sleight of hand. Covid will be with us for years and it will continue to mutate. Society and economies and businesses cannot survive constant lockdowns and restrictive measures. An economic recession, or a possible collapse, would kill many more people through the chaos, hunger and suffering this would cause than would the virus.
The protesters say, that although many will die, we will reach ‘herd immunity’ and that we need to measure the cost to our societies against those of the lives that will be lost. To put it bluntly, as one German told me: “Germany can afford to lose 500,000 people. But it can’t afford to go out of business.”
How long can we expect healthy and/or free people to sacrifice basic liberties of movement, activities and employment so that the frail can have a little? While Wall Street has done well during the pandemic, Main Street has seen an apocalypse of bankruptcies. Small businesses cannot survive constant lockdowns and curfews. (bankruptcy stats from France, and Germany)
New measures are being enforced throughout Europe:
- You basically need a paper showing you have had the vaccine shots, were cured within the last six months, or a daily viral test, everywhere in the EU.
- A French Bill will make vaccines passes obligatory (with booster for 60 and older) to be able to do anything from take public transportation, to going to the cinema, restaurant or even super market. The tough measures imposed last summer brought the number of those with at least one shot up to 91%, as the restrictions imposed made life difficult. The new law will almost completely marginalize the unvaccinated.
- Germany has restricted group gatherings to ten people and many states are ordering bars and restaurants to close early while some go from what the Germans call “3G” (1.complete Vaccine pass or 2.certificate of Covid cure within last six months or 3.one of two viral tests) into “2G” where the viral tests will no longer count. Soccer matches will be played in empty stadiums, nightclubs and discos are closed.
- Portugal just closed bars and restaurants. Holland shut down completely. Sweden and France will only allow seated guests to be served.
The tighter measures have provoked resistance and even violence and have raised serious questions about the future of democracy in some countries. Germany has avoided centralized government over-reach, allowing state parliaments and leaders to deal with the measures although the Bundestag mandated vaccines for care-givers and hospital workers.
French President Macron has used crises, like so many other “authoritarian leaders,” to pass laws which take away liberties and give extra powers to his office, to the administration and the police, weakening the role of parliament and the courts; using as pretexts the fight against terrorism, the Yellow Vests, violence and abuse on the internet, and now Covid19.
So, there is something to be said for those who argue for freedom. Yet, there is no denying, as many dishonestly do, that the vaccines work and reduce drastically the risk of being hospitalized.
Give Me Liberty or Give Me Covid
In France, for example, protesters argue that 63% of those who died in hospital from Covid from Nov. 8 to Dec. 5, 2021, were vaccinated. Yes, but they are using absolute numbers and not comparative figures (Libération Fact Check and FranceInfo: here) and most of those had other pre-existing conditions.
91% of the French population over 20 has had at least one shot. If what they are saying is true, then those unvaccinated being hospitalized, 20 and over, should only be 9% of the total. In reality, they make up 38% of the deaths, 41% of hospitalizations and 52% of intensive care patients.
According to a report by the French DREES government statistics bureau, 141 unvaccinated people per one million died of Covid19 between Nov. 8 and Dec. 5, but only 87 per million for those who had received at least one dose. Remember that 5.4 million are unvaccinated as opposed to over 52 million who have received at least one jab.
On Dec. 29, the French Health Minister, Olivier Véran told parliament that 70% of the patients in intensive care in Paris hospitals were unvaccinated. The others had pre-exiting immuno-compromized problems, the minister said.
Your chances of dying from Covid, says the DREES report, if you are unvaccinated, are seven times higher. The day 100% of the population is vaccinated, then 100% of the Covid patients entering hospital will be as well, but there will be far fewer patients.
The moral of the story is: ‘get the jab, fight for freedom.’ Let’s make Orwell fiction again.
Update: Some have said Franklin didn’t mean what the quote says in the context in which it was written. Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the editor of Lawfare told npr: “And maybe it doesn’t matter so much what Franklin was actually trying to say because the quotation means so much to us in terms of the tension between government power and individual liberties. But I do think it is worth remembering what he was actually trying to say because the actual context is much more sensitive to the problems of real governance than the flip quotation’s use is, often. And Franklin was dealing with a genuine security emergency. There were raids on these frontier towns. And he regarded the ability of a community to defend itself as the essential liberty that it would be contemptible to trade. So I don’t really have a problem with people misusing the quotation, but I also think it’s worth remembering what it was really about.”