Unvaccinated Lockdown

No, the NHS is Not Being Overwhelmed by the Unvaccinated

The amount of misinformation being put out by Government ministers and senior medics about the proportion of unvaccinated people in hospital with Covid is reaching a new level that is beginning to feel disturbingly sinister.

When lockdown sceptics are joining in with the condemnation, you know the problem has ratcheted up a notch or three.

The normally reliable Philip Johnston in the Telegraph points the finger at the unvaccinated for threatening the capacity of the health service, citing a number of misleading claims.

The panacea, we are told, is to get boosted. Yet by definition the refuseniks will not get a third jab when they have not been vaccinated in the first place. I understand if someone does not want to get jabbed. It is their body and they are entitled to say they do not want to be medicated. We cannot force them to. But if the consequence of that decision is to place others at risk then it cannot be allowed to pass by default. We all understand, too, that some people for a variety of medical reasons cannot have the vaccine.

In order to persuade a greater take-up of jabs, the Government wanted to bring in vaccine passports for certain settings but watered these down to include proof of a negative test, which rather defeats the object. Scores of Tory MPs voted against even this on the grounds that such a measure was illiberal.

But the Conservative Party has never been a libertarian movement. It is supposed to believe that with rights come responsibilities. Opponents of heavy-handed state action against the citizen often quote J S Mill’s famous dictum: “The only purpose for which power can rightfully be exercised over any member of a civilised society, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.” I agree with that. I don’t see why I should have restrictions placed on me when I am unlikely to cause harm to others.

But that is not necessarily true of the unvaccinated. According to Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, nine in 10 Covid patients needing the most care are unjabbed. A similar point was made by Sadiq Khan, the London mayor, who said the “vast, vast majority” of seriously ill people were unjabbed, identifying “black Londoners, Muslim Londoners, Jewish Londoners and eastern European Londoners” as groups that are proving particularly resistant. Why is this?

In the absence of comprehensive official data, we are having to rely on anecdotal evidence, but I know several hospital consultants who tell of seriously ill patients being transferred to critical care units who are still unvaccinated, taking up emergency beds needed for other patients.

One told me that so far he had not seen anyone in intensive care who had been jabbed, suggesting that even if vaccinated people are getting sick, they’re not getting as sick. This should be good news, even with the onset of Omicron, and yet here we are again facing a lockdown to preserve the NHS from collapse.

The claims Johnston repeats here are, at best, highly misleading. Take Sajid Javid’s line that “nine in 10 Covid patients needing the most care are unjabbed”. This stat has been repeated often by the haters-of-the-unvaccinated in recent days, but their source is rarely stated. It appears to refer to the claim made by NHS England at the start of December that, as the Times reports, “between July and November more than nine in 10 patients receiving the most specialist care, in which artificial lungs were used to try to save their lives, were unvaccinated”.

That raw statistic may be true (it is not in the public domain), but any implication that it means the unvaccinated are adding considerable pressure to health service resources doesn’t withstand scrutiny since the numbers involved here are miniscule. As Dr Clare Craig points out, over recent weeks there have only been one or two new Covid admissions being put onto an ‘artificial lung’ ECMO machine each week.

Austria Loosens Its Lockdown Restrictions – But Only for the Vaccinated

In what the Austrian Chancellor, Karl Nehammer, has described as an “opening with a seatbelt”, the Government has terminated national lockdown measures, and has granted each of its nine provinces the power to strengthen or relax their own Covid measures. However, unvaccinated Austrians are denied the right to enter public places that have been allowed to re-open, such as entertainment venues and non-essential shops, with the unjabbed only allowed to leave their homes for buying food, exercise, or going to the doctor. The Guardian has the story.

The rules, which vary by region within the country, largely allow for the reopening of theatres, museums and other cultural and entertainment venues on Sunday. Shops will follow on Monday.

Some regions are reopening restaurants and hotels on Sunday, while others will wait until later in the month. In all cases, there will be an 11pm curfew for restaurants, and masks will still be required on public transport and inside stores and public spaces.

The chancellor, Karl Nehammer, last week called the move an “opening with a seatbelt”, giving each of Austria’s nine regions the ability to loosen or tighten restrictions based on the local situation.

Unvaccinated people will still be subject to the lockdown restrictions and should remain at home for all but a handful of specific reasons, such as buying groceries, going to the doctor or exercising.

Since the start of the lockdown, new case numbers have plummeted in Austria. On Friday, the country reported 367.5 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants, down from 1,102.4 on the first day of the lockdown in November.

Hospitalisations from the virus have not dropped as sharply as new case numbers. There are currently 567 Covid patients in intensive care units across the country, only slightly down from 572 on the first day of the lockdown last month.

Austrian officials have stressed that high rates of vaccination are necessary to control the virus. Just 67.7% of the population are fully vaccinated, a relatively low rate for western Europe, and the Government has introduced measures to put increasing pressure on unvaccinated individuals to get the jab.

Worth reading in full.

Angela Merkel Demands Mandatory Vaccination Law as Germany is Set to Impose Restrictions on the Unvaccinated

The German Government has announced that its unvaccinated population will be prohibited from entering ‘non-essential’ shops, with Angela Merkel declaring that these restrictions are necessary to stop the nation’s hospitals from being overrun with Covid patients. The Chancellor has labelled the new restrictions as an “act of solidarity”, and has called upon lawmakers to introduce legislation making the vaccine compulsory. The Telegraph has the story.

Angela Merkel has backed compulsory vaccinations as leaders agreed to bring in a de facto lockdown for the unvaccinated.

The German Chancellor said that people who aren’t vaccinated will be excluded from nonessential shops, as well as cultural and recreational venues.

Speaking after a meeting with federal and state leaders, she said the measures were necessary in light of concerns that hospitals in Germany could become overloaded with people suffering Covid infections.

“The situation in our country is serious,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin, calling the measure an “act of national solidarity”.

Merkel herself backed the most contentious proposal of imposing a general vaccine mandate. She said Parliament would debate the proposal with input from the country’s national ethics committee.

If passed, it could take effect as early as February, Merkel said, adding that she would have voted in favour of the measure if she were still a member of parliament.

She said officials had also agreed to require masks in schools, impose new limits on private meetings and aim for 30 million vaccinations by the end of the year, an effort that will be boosted by allowing dentists and pharmacists to administer the shots.

Just over 68% of the population in Germany is fully vaccinated, far below the minimum of 75% the Government is aiming for.

There have been large protests against pandemic measures in the past in Germany and the vaccine mandate is likely to be opposed by a minority, though opinion polls show most Germans are in favour.

Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, who is expected to be elected chancellor by a centre-left coalition next week, has also backed a general vaccine mandate, but favours letting lawmakers vote on the issue according to their personal conscience rather than party lines.

Under the new measures announced today, the unvaccinated will be barred from restaurants, pubs, cinemas, gyms, cultural events and non-essential shops. 

The restrictions, which will not apply to the fully jabbed, are already in force in several German regions.

The unvaccinated will also be barred from Christmas markets in those regions where they are still open. Many regions have already ordered the traditional markets to close. 

Worth reading in full.

Greece to Impose Restrictions on the Unvaccinated

The Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has announced that, from Monday, the unvaccinated (even if they have recently tested negative for Covid) will be prohibited from entering indoor spaces such as restaurants, cinemas, and gyms. In addition, Mitsotakis declared that the country is suffering from “a pandemic of the unvaccinated”, with the elderly encouraged to receive booster jabs as their vaccination certificates are set to expire after seven months. Aljazerra has the story.

Greece has become the latest country in the European Union to impose more restrictions on those unvaccinated against Covid following a surge in infections in recent weeks.

In a televised address to the nation, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said that, from Monday, unvaccinated people will be largely barred from indoor spaces, including restaurants, cinemas, museums and gyms, even if they test negative for Covid.

Greece has so far fully vaccinated about 62% of its population of some 11 million people. Authorities had hoped for a rate of about 70% before the European winter sets in at the end of the year.

“This is indeed a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Mitsotakis said. “Greece is mourning unnecessary losses because it simply does not have the vaccination rates of other European countries.”

Under the new rules in Greece, vaccination certificates of those over 60 years-old will be valid for seven months after being issued, in an effort to encourage them to get a third, “booster” shot.

Worshippers attending church will be allowed to enter with a negative test, Mitsotakis said.

In a subsequent statement, Alexis Tsipras, leader of the main opposition Syriza party, accused Mitsotakis of “being responsible” for the “unprecedented tragedy” that has seen Greece’s Covid-related death toll surpass 17,000.

The country reported 7,317 new infections and 63 deaths on Thursday. This brought total infections since the start of the pandemic to 861,117 and the total number of fatalities to 17,075.

Earlier in November, the Government had imposed some restrictions on unvaccinated citizens but had allowed them access to most services, provided they tested negative.

Austria, Germany, Slovakia and the Czech Republic all limited public life for the unvaccinated this week as infections rise across Europe.

The Greek prime minister said he would propose making this an E.U.-wide standard to the European Commission.

Worth reading in full.

Five Italian Governors Wish to Follow Austria’s Lead in Locking Down the Unvaccinated

Due to a heightened fear that Italy will soon suffer a ‘fourth wave’ of Covid infections, five of Italy’s 20 regional governors have come out in favour of copying Austria’s unvaccinated lockdown. The Telegraph has the story.

Although 84% of Italians over 12 years-old are double-jabbed, that still leaves around seven million who have still refused to have the vaccination.

The number of infections is steadily rising, as there were nearly 7,700 new cases on Tuesday, compared with 5,100 cases on Monday. Italy’s death toll from the virus stands at nearly 133,000, which is the highest in the E.U.

“Eventual new lockdowns should not have to be suffered by those who are vaccinated. Restrictions should only apply to those who are not immunized,” said Massimiliano Fedriga, the Governor of Friuli-Venezia Giulia in the northeast of the country.

His stance is supported by the governors of Tuscany, Calabria, Liguria and Piedmont.

Matteo Renzi, a former Prime Minister and now head of a small centre-left party, agrees. “You’re not vaccinated? Then stay at home,” he wrote on social media.

It comes as the Czech Republic is moving to ban people who have not been jabbed from public services.

Andrej Babis, the Czech Prime Minister, said that from Monday the authorities will ban unvaccinated people from access to a range of services as Eastern Europe battles a new wave of infections.

Slovakia is also due to vote on Thursday on banning the unvaccinated from non-essential shops, hotels, big public gatherings, gyms and swimming pools.

The Czech Republic reported more than 22,000 new cases on Wednesday, nearly 8,000 more than a week ago.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: A piece in the Express highlights that Britain’s initial Covid response was originally inspired by Italy’s lockdown, and that U.K. experts could still be influenced by what future restrictions the nation introduces.