Whilst the narrative change is welcome, it all seems to be happening at the same time, in multiple countries and all whilst Covid cases are hitting new highs. Now I know, cases don’t mean anything unless they convert to hospitalisations and deaths but still, even a few weeks ago, if cases were rising, the media and politicians would be going into fear overload.
Let’s take a look at a few example countries and how the same narrative change has been happening over and over again. I will look at the countries in order of most vaccinated,
With cases at all time highs on 25th January the Gibraltar Government said it will “continue to be guided by scientific advice” after the GSD said Gibraltar “must now learn to live with Covid”. The GSD said a successful vaccination programme was “clearly being effective at staving off hospitalisations despite a high level of community infection”.
Denmark is becoming the first EU country to scrap all COVID-19 restrictions, on 1 February, just as cases are at an all time high. The Danish health minister said “we have this decoupling between infections and intensive care patients, and it is mainly due to the large attachment among Danes to revaccination.”
Hospital admissions and deaths would suggest otherwise.
Iceland are to relax restrictions despite record numbers of infections. The reason for the change in tactics is the change in the pandemic’s behaviour. With the introduction of the omicron variant, as well as 78% of the nation being fully vaccinated and over 50% having had their booster shot, the National Hospital’s data indicates that the risk of serious illness is much less than it was.
Again, hospitalisations don’t reflect this.
From 1 February, Italy will ease COVID-19 restriction for all travellers from EU countries. At the moment, all citizens must present a negative test on arrival, however, since the Omicron variant is already widely spread within the EU, the authorities plan to remove the pre-entry testing requirements if they present a valid vaccination or recovery certificate.
Portugal, despite huge case numbers, will change the rules so that passengers will face milder entry rules, provided they have completed their immunisation process against the virus. This must be evidenced by a valid EU digital COVID certificate. In addition, from 1 February the EU will shorten the validity of vaccination documents to 270 days.
Rising cases has not prevented Belgian authorities from removing travel bans. Furthermore, they have revealed new rules with regard to vaccination certificates. From 1 March, the validity passes will be reduce from 270 to 150 days. Such a decision was taken in order to push more people to get an additional dose and means that all those who hold a vaccination certificate indicating that the last dose was taken more than 150 days will be considered unvaccinated. On the other hand, those who receive a booster shot will be able to travel under facilitated rules.
The list goes on and on. France are lifting most of its Covid restrictions, although vaccine passes will come into effect on Monday. People will no longer be allowed to show a negative test to enter restaurants, bars, theatres or travel on trains.
In the UK, most Covid restrictions have been removed, including mandatory COVID-19 certification, but venues can choose to use the vaccine pass voluntarily. Our health secretary, Sajid Javid, says the plan to live with Covid will focus on vaccines, treatment drugs and testing. He said a plan on how we will “learn to live with Covid as a country” will be published by spring.
It seems the new narrative is “living with the virus”. What this means in reality is that mass vaccination has caused massive spikes in cases. This is due to the negative efficacy towards infections. Moreover, whilst hospitalisations and deaths are relatively low, they will take advantage of the situation and claim victory due to the vaccines. The real reason will be that Omicron is more mild and that the majority of susceptible individuals will have already been hospitalised or died from a previous variant.
This hollow, Pyrrhic vaccine victory will be used to further the use of vaccine passports. Negative tests will be removed and places and services that require Covid passes will only be accessible to the vaccinated. Exemptions will be extremely difficult to acquire and any attempts to bypass the system will result in hefty fines or jail time. In the UK, we already have £10,000 fines for attempting to forge a Covid pass.
It is clear that the only way to keep your vaccine passport is by having a booster. Moreover, following Belgium’s example, an updated booster will be required within 150 days (5 months).
I remain naively and optimistically positive that this won’t happen in a free country such as the UK but all the signs are that this is already in motion. I have little hope for the EU and even less for Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The US has strong resistance but ultimately they will fall in line as well. I can’t see any international travel happening without the passes this year.
So the narrative change is happening in lockstep because it must be done so. For the majority to accept vaccine passports, it must be easy and with little difference between countries. By spring, due to seasonality, cases will be subsiding and this will be used to further the use of vaccine passports. Vaccines have saved us, they reduced hospitalisations and deaths and now they are reducing cases.
Whilst we have been rejoicing that restrictions are loosening, the vaccine passport plan has been progressing behind our backs. Classic diversionary tactics. Once the majority are boosted, rules are homogenised and cases dropping, they will double down on the vaccine passports. Why will the majority go along with this? Because they are too busy with everyday life to care, so long as it doesn’t affect them. You can already see this with masks. Worn in empty locations because they are told to. Not worn in crowded locations because they are told to. Put on in a restaurant to walk to a table, but not whilst seated, because they are told to. And when you ask them why, they just shrug and say, “those are the rules”.
I hope I am wrong, but after looking at what each country is doing and preparing to do, all along similar time frames and whilst case rates are high, it seems the writing is on the wall.
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