Comment: Why lock down to protect the unvaccinated?

Steve Endacott considers the health vs national wealth debate amid talk of a post-Christmas lockdown

During the first lockdown, I accepted all restrictions on my rights to work, mix and travel as I recognised the need to protect the vulnerable in the absence of a vaccine.

A year on from the first vaccines, and with more than half the country triple-vaccinated, I think it’s time to ask, ‘Who would we be locking down to protect, and is the economic cost worth it?’

I accept the right of the individual, even when faced with sound medical research showing the benefits of vaccines, not to take them. For a few, there are medical reasons, but for many it’s a choice. We live in a democracy.

Because we live in a democracy, when 85% of the population have been vaccinated government policy should be based on the needs of the vast majority. That means no further lockdowns and a policy of living with Covid-19.

A more controversial question is, ‘What happens if hospital wards do become overrun?’ Should the vaccinated take priority over the unvaccinated? My humanity says ‘no’, but cold logic says ‘should there not be some consequences for not following the science?’

Living with Covid-19 will however need some changes to the ‘norms’, for example carrying around Covid-19 passes for entry to certain locations.

Having returned last week from a ski trip in France, where all entry to pubs and restaurants requires the presentation of a ‘Passe Sanitaire’ proving your fully-vaccinated status, I must question why the UK media finds this a breach of our rights. Sorry, but I think it’s my right to demand that people I’m mixing with in enclosed spaces are as safe as possible for my personal health.

Similarly, I think it is reasonable to ask people who are going to sporting events or travelling on holiday to take a low-priced lateral flow test. This provides reassurance and an increased likelihood of a Covid-19 free environment.

However, I do object to being differentiated against and made to feel guilty by our government just because I want to travel.

Why should travellers not be able to use NHS lateral flow or PCR tests while travelling overseas when it’s free to use these services if you want to go to a music or sporting event?

As stated, many times, even if these tests are not free, the government is best positioned to provide low-cost testing at around £12.50 per lateral flow and £22.50 for PCRs which cover costs and generate a small profit for the NHS.

Given the Omicron infection rate in the UK, I am more likely to catch Covid-19 from visiting a local pub, restaurant, or supermarket than when travelling. So, what is the logic of insisting travellers returning to the UK must quarantine for and take a further PCR test? Where is the scientific evidence that people returning to the UK have a higher infection rate than the domestic population? The simple answer is that there is none, but hitting travellers is an easily visible action when politicians want to be seen to be doing something.

The government has done something. It has announced a £1 billion package to help hospitality and leisure businesses to survive the coming lockdown, which reports suggest is likely to take effect from December 27. However, although the assistance to hospitality locations of £6,000 is clear, it’s very unclear how or what leisure business can claim.

Although any assistance is welcome, even if travel firms are considered leisure businesses it’s a drop in the ocean and not enough to stop the wholesale shutting of high street travel agents and the failure of many tour operators, particularly those in the ski sector which have faced two lost winters.

The only thing that can save the UK travel sector is the rapid spread of Omicron in a triple-vaccinated population where the latest research shows it has a mild impact and the unvaccinated are locked down to protect the vaccinated. Not locking down the whole population is the right choice for our country’s economy and gives the travel industry a chance of a summer season, assuming holiday destinations take the same approach.

Sorry if this blog offends, sounds selfish and treats travel as a priority when it clearly isn’t one for everyone. However, travel has provided my living for virtually all my working life and if we don’t fight hard the UK outbound travel sector could easily be destroyed by another lengthy Covid-19 lockdown.

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