I have been fully vaccinated. I wear a mask. I believe that lockdowns drove the numebr of infections in Melbourne to zero. I scan the QR code whenever I have the chance. When I go to the supermarket, it is just me. Yet, I see many couples shopping and not being challenged by security. Most importantly, I keep the f.ck away from people on the street and at the market, which is really the only thing that matters. The bottom line here is that I have done, and continue to do, my bit to limit the spread of Covid.
But I fear that Paul Fritjers is proving correct. Australia seems to be sleepwalking. We are becoming an authoritarian country too easily influenced by a howling mob of thoughtless, terrified idiots and spurred on by the media and other self-interested demagogues. This is not a reason to have opposed lockdowns in the first place, but it demands dissent.
Let me quote Article 13 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights.
Everyone has the right to freedom of movement … within the borders of each state. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his(sic) own.
There are circumstances under which these rights can be restricted and a health crisis would be one of them. But to justify this as an exemption, you would have to draw a connection between the health crisis and the right that is being restricted. And I cannot see that there is a health related justification for two policies that have been imposed for the last 12 months.
I strongly contend that the government has no right to stop me leaving the country. Nor does the government have the right to restrict me to my home when I am vaccinated. If there was a health justification, it would be legal to do so both of these things. But I argue below that there is not. And if you agree, then it seems to me that we need to be out there protesting and defying laws. I cannot defy the overseas travel law but I can certainly defy the current lockdown and visit my vaccinated friends.
Freedom of Travel.
Australians cannot leave their own country. Until now, only countries like North Korea would stop their own citizens from leaving. Now we have a liberal democracy doing it.
When I bring up the issue of overseas travel bans, people immediately (I mean without even a three second pause to think) counter that they will come back and bring the virus with them. But you cannot get back into Australia at will. There is a cap and those who leave would know that they will have a hard time returning. They might even be put to the back of the queue. Regardless, it is a fact that the number of citizens returning from overseas would not change at all.
I have heard no argument that allowing overseas travel would have any effect on the virus entering Australia. There is no ethical defence for stopping a citizen leaving these shores if they want to visit their parents or perhaps if they just want to get the hell out of Australia because they are sick of the fear mongering and moralising. Even Mark McGowan does not stop West Australians from leaving his pristine state.
Why are there are no howls of protest? Why is the media silent? Why are even the Liberal Democrats not making a noise? I have no idea. Maybe they have been deplatformed.
Recognition of Vaccination Status.
Vaccination with Pfizer gives 90% immunity. This means that whatever your chance of being infected is now (which depends on your behaviour and prevalence) it will be 10 times lower. Thought of another way, if 100 people would get infected unvaccinated, then only 10 of them would if they were all vaccinated. Astra is less effective than Pfizer. But both reduce your chance of dying if infected by a large factor. Unfortunately, neither seems to have much effect on your ability to spread Covid if you are infected.
Since R is about 5 for delta, logic would suggest that a fully vaccinated population would be safe to mix as normal. Add masks and density limits and it is a nobrainer. If you mistrust logic or the estimates of vaccine effectiveness then we have an experiment that is running right now. We have the US.
In June there were 10,000 deaths and 99.2% were unvaccinated. That is 80 deaths of the vaccinated across the entire US, in an environment where they are mixing with the unvaccinated. You do not need a math degree to realise that without the unvaccinated spreading Covid there would likely have been zero vaccinated deaths.
I Googled “covid deaths of vaccinated Australia” and came up with nothing. Which would make sense since our death totals are so much lower and there are less vaccinated.
The bottom line is that I am not at any practical risk freely mixing with other people if I am just sensible about keeping my distance and stay the hell off Tinder. So, does the government lock me down for my own benefit? Clearly not though commentators will sometimes claim it is for my own good. The more common argument is that the general lockdowns cannot cease yet because we are not at herd immunity.
The claim is (and I think the simulations support it) that if we all mixed together now then the virus would take off. The deaths would nearly all be unvaccinated and most of the infections would be spread by the unvaccinated since vaccinated have 10 times less chance of being infectious. Nevertheless, this is a legitimate argument for lockdown compared to no restrictions at all.
I am sure you can see the error of binary thinking here.
What would be the effect of letting only the vaccinated out? Based on the US experience there would be virtual elimination. Based on theory, the population of vaccinated are … 100% vaccinated. If it is not safe for them to be set free then what are we to make of the 70%-80% official target?
Again, when I mentioned this I get reflexive opposition. The first counter is that many people have not had the chance to be vaccinated yet so it would be unfair. Yes, it may be unfair but do they really want me to be locked down just because they have not been able to get a jab? My sons are not vaccinated and they do not want me locked down.
And just to add a linertarian argument, the unvaccianted can alwasy stay home if they think they are too vulnerable wothout any government mandate.
The second counter is that it would be impossible to police and it could be abused by the unvaccinated. This is at least an argument. So let’s have it. How can we create an effective vaccine passport? Currently, there is no public discussion because we have not identified that setting the vaccinated free is ethically desirable.
Is it really impossible to get an app on a phone to prove your status? I have a pdf from MyGov that would be pretty easy to forge. I am not sure why they sent it, since it entitles me to nothing anyway. Any proof has to be digital.
In Singapore that have a QR code that links to your Medicare record. You show you photo ID and the police scan your QR code and you are good to go.
I have a friend who lives in Saudi Arabia. A screen shot of the government mandated app is below which has been running since February. Here is his description:
There are a number of different states that can be displayed. In different shades of green – no record of infection, immune by infection, immune by first dose, and, immune. The app reflects a national tracing system that runs in the background so if I happen to be in the same place at the same time as an infection occurs, the colour turns red and you are directed to get a test.
The test results are subsequently reflected in the app when the colour returns to green (as below) assuming negative. The app is linked to your national ID. There is no need to check into a location with a QR code, it happens automatically so yes, big brother is indeed watching.
I do not believe that the Saudi’s are so advanced that we cannot emulate such technology.
But wait the Guardian readers cry. We cannot let the government have this kind of power over us! Sigh.
Unless I have missed some big issue, which I may well have, this is a time for civil disobedience. If you (would have) defied the draft in 1968 then I think you should defy the lockdown right now if you are vaccinated.
Finally, there is a health argument for vaccine passports. It would strongly incentivise vaccination. I queues would be a mile long. But that is another argument to the ethicla one I am making. Though it does suggest an answer to the question “Well, why has ScMo not been demanding freedom for the vaccinated?” The answer I think is that it would make his failure to secure enough vaccine much more salient.