On January 19, Prime Minister Boris Johnson indicated from the dispatch box of the House of Commons that all COVID-related restrictions in England would come to an end. Sajid Javid, the health secretary, added at a press conference that, though the finish line hadn’t yet been crossed, “we must learn to live with COVID in the same way we live with flu.”
Only a week before, on January 13, the United States Supreme Court blocked President Biden’s workplace vaccine mandate. While some individual U.S. cities, such as New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., have implemented vaccine passports, and more are adopting such measures, the U.S., like the U.K., seems set to travel at its own pace toward a new and sunnier post-COVID upland.
France, on the other hand, has taken a radically different path.
On January 16, the French parliament voted to introduce the vaccine passport.
Even though the government also recently announced a supposed loosening of certain COVID restrictions, such as the current outdoor masking requirement, to take effect in February, France has now joined Austria, Italy, Germany, and others in the adoption of policies that actively obstruct public life for the unvaccinated.
Le Figaro reports that, from now on, each and every Frenchman will have to divulge and justify his health status “to access leisure activities, restaurants and bars, fairs or interregional public transport.”
For the moment, polls suggest support for the measures.
In one French survey, 58 percent of respondents said they were in favor of “vaccine passports.”
A similar number support vaccine mandates, according to Le Journal du Dimanche, a weekly paper, although more recently backing for both measures has dropped markedly (the one by 8 percent, the other by 15 percent).
Speaking of the unvaccinated in a January 4 interview, President Emmanuel Macron notoriously said: “I really want to piss them off. And so we’re going to keep on doing it, until the end. That’s the strategy.”
He added that “it is a very small minority that resists,” offering the judgment that “an irresponsible person is no longer a citizen.”
By mentioning the words “strategy” and “minority” in the same statement, President Macron led many to suspect electioneering as a key motivator for passing the law. The French presidential elections are only three months away.
Indeed, during a January 14 interview on Europe 1, France’s leading radio network, the head of the infectious-diseases department at Paris’s Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, Dr. Eric Caumes, said that “this is clearly a mistake,” adding that vaccine passports had nothing to do with medicine or public health and everything to do with the upcoming election.
“It is a branding exercise and above all designed to divide [society].”
From this perspective, the unvaccinated and the partially vaccinated have become, to Macron at least, a useful cog in a complex political machine. Though no real threat to the public good, they can be used as such to score short-lived political points.
The stigmatization of around 5 million people ought to be a cause for alarm, not least because the reasons for not getting vaccinated are more nuanced than the ubiquitous binary world-view that casts the vaxxed as smart and the unvaxxed as idiotic.
As the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research found, at least 40 percent of the unvaccinated have not taken the shot because of difficulties in accessing it.
They are, in other words, France’s poorest. The other 60 percent didn’t get the jab out of choice, which in a free society ought to be the end of the story.
However pleasing to some this new law might be in the short term, in the medium to longer term, politicians might find that the polls they relied on to pass these draconian measures were hollow.
The immediate effect of the new law will be to leave the unvaccinated and partially vaccinated backed into a corner.
They will have to choose between submission or losing their freedom.
Indeed, many will be forced out of their jobs. It is not only that an individual lacking the right credential will not be allowed to travel on trains or drink un café au contoir; it is also that he will not be allowed to either drive the engine or serve the drink.
Either way, for them, and for their friends and relatives, the French Republic and her supposed adherence to universal human rights will have been revealed as an empty shell.
Eventually, though, the laws will be revealed as deeply unpopular with everyone, including the fully vaccinated.
The government has authorized the interference by one group of citizens in the lives of another. Every interaction with a third party will therefore become officialized.
The nosy neighbor has not only been given the power to snoop but has been instructed to shun.
No law could have been better designed to irritate the law-abiding.
Experience tells us that what has been granted by the state is not easily withdrawn. That is to say, this will likely be the new normal for a long time to come. Note that even as the government announced that some COVID measures would soon be loosened, it has made no definite plans to get rid of the vaccine-passport system. Once the application of this new law finds its rhythm, the habit of demanding paperwork for participation in various activities could easily expand from COVID to include other health-related matters. And health, as we know, is a very flexible word.
Source: Alex Story – National Review