Since there are going to be a few things in this column many people are probably going to disagree with, let me start by expressing something I’m sure most of us can get behind: I am beyond gatvol with this lockdown.
For more than a year and a half we’ve been in a state of disaster that has turned fathers into criminals just for going out too late to buy baby formula, and has seen the demise of livelihoods and businesses in a way that’s more akin to what a war would cause.
As far as we’ve been told, the only thing that’s going to get South Africa out of this lockdown is once 70% or more of the population has gotten itself fully vaccinated.
Supposedly this will lower the risk of healthcare facilities being overwhelmed by renewed waves of coronavirus infections – to the point that we can just start treating Covid-19 like any other illness, like the flu or common cold.
We’ve seen plenty of examples of other countries being able to do this, with Norway a very good recent example. They’re living there now as though Covid doesn’t exist. Not because they’ve locked themselves down constantly like a terrified church mouse behind the pipe organ in New Zealand, but because they vaccinated just about everyone.
By now we all know the vaccine sales pitch: you can still get Covid even after vaccination, but your risk of death drops by 10 times or more, and the chances of needing treatment in ICU are massively reduced. We also know that most people still dying of Covid-19 worldwide are people who refused to get vaccinated.
By now the evidence that vaccinations have proven effective is overwhelming, so we should probably also accept that anyone still rejecting being vaccinated is not doing it out of ignorance. They’re doing it because that’s what they believe in and it’s a matter of special principle to them.
I don’t have a problem with them believing any nonsense they like, as long as it doesn’t continue to mess up my life and the lives of the rest of us who got vaccinated because we want things to go back to normal.
The problem is that all the angry anti-vaxxing means we are likely to be stuck in this stupid lockdown for far longer, and at the rate we’re going, forever. The new Merck pill that may halve the risk of death and hospitalisation from Covid may help these people and, by extension, the rest of us – but who knows when that’s going to be approved for general use.
The only sensible proposal I can think of in the meantime to keep everyone happy and getting what they deserve is to recognise the problem for what it is: that we can’t drop the lockdown restrictions completely because we’re still not vaccinated enough and the hospitals are still at risk of being overwhelmed.
So the problem is not that people aren’t vaccinated; it’s that hospitals may still be overwhelmed by them.
Overcoming this problem should surely be a simple matter, then, of enforcing a rule that anyone who isn’t vaccinated should not qualify for hospital treatment if they get Covid-19.
If they happen to need any other kind of treatment, then fine, treat them. But if they decided they would rather take their chances with getting Covid and decline the vaccine, then let them do exactly that and take their chances.
These people should also not be a burden to their medical aid providers, so government should allow medical aids the discretion of removing Covid treatment as a defined benefit for anti-vaxxers. This would also only be fair, as those of us who have been vaccinated would prefer not having our medical aid funds exhausted by the inability to breathe of people who seem to think Bill Gates is trying to fill their veins with tiny robots.
I have no doubt that entrepreneurs will soon emerge to fill the gap, to provide treatment solutions to the unvaccinated. It might be expensive. It might not be. But it needs to become their problem now – not mine and yours, fellow vaccine taker.
I’ve heard quite a few anti-vaxxers tell me they’d rather die than take the vaccine. Okay. Fine. Have it your way.
They do seem to become less enthusiastic about dying, though, when they’re gasping for breath and see the shadow of the scythe on the wall of that next world. But far be it from me to tell another person how to live their life, or lose it, for that matter.
While we’re on this vaccination topic by the way, I realise there’s a risk to being vaccinated. There’s also a risk to not being vaccinated. There’s a risk to eating a peanut. Duh. Existence is a risk but one has to play the odds and right now the odds favour vaccination over the alternative.
But back to the point, the anti-vaxxers should be willing to agree to this solution since I’m sure that many of them are also beyond tired of this lockdown, and obviously these exclusions need not apply for people who have some medically sound reason to not be vaccinated and can therefore apply for an exemption certificate and still be treated in our hospitals should they get Covid.
Whether the unvaccinated agree or not is not the point. The point is they need to just be informed about the new rules so that they can stop holding the rest of hostage to a lockdown that could return to a 9pm curfew again within weeks or months.
I have no doubt, though, that this entire suggestion will probably be roundly ignored, since there hasn’t been much in the way of sensible behaviour since we all started losing our minds about this microscopic Mephistopheles last year, and that’s probably not about to change.