Corona virus crisis in Europe prompts vaccination against unvaccinated people
Brussels – This was supposed to be the Christmas in Europe where family and friends could once again embrace each other’s festive festivities. Instead, the continent is the global epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic with cases rising to record levels in many countries.
With infection rates rising again despite nearly two years of restrictions, the health crisis is increasingly pitting the citizen against the citizen – the vaccinated against the unvaccinated.
Desperate to protect overburdened health-care systems, governments are imposing rules that limit options for the unvaccinated, in the hope that this will lead to higher vaccination rates.
Austria on Friday went a step further, making vaccinations mandatory from February 1.
Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said: “For a long time, perhaps for a very long time, I and others believed that people in Austria had to be persuaded, to persuade them to voluntarily vaccinate.”
He described the move as “our only way out of this vicious cycle of viral waves and lockdown discussions for good.”
While Austria stands so far alone in the European Union in making vaccinations mandatory, more and more governments are tightening the screws.
From Monday, Slovakia bans people who have not been vaccinated from all non-essential stores and shopping malls. They will also not be allowed to attend any public event or gathering and will be required to test twice a week just to go to work.
Prime Minister Edward Heger warned that “Christmas does not mean Christmas without COVID-19”. For that to happen, Slovakia would need a completely different vaccination rate.
He described the measures as “close to the unvaccinated.”
Slovakia, where only 45.3% of its 5.5 million population has been fully vaccinated, reported 8,342 new cases of the virus on Tuesday.
It is not only Central and Eastern European countries that are suffering again. The rich nations of the West are also being hit hard and have restricted their populations once again.
“It is really time, for sure, to take action,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday. With a vaccination rate of 67.5%, her state is now considering mandatory vaccinations for many health professionals.
Greece also targets the unvaccinated. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced a raft of new restrictions late Thursday on the unvaccinated, keeping them out of places including bars, restaurants, cinemas, theaters, museums and gyms, even if they test negative.
“It’s an immediate protective action, and of course an indirect trigger for vaccination,” Mitsotakis said.
The restrictions angered Claire Daly, an Irish EU legislator and member of the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties and Justice Committee. It says states trample individual rights.
“In a large number of cases, member states are excluding people from their ability to go to work,” Daly said, describing Austria’s restrictions on non-vaccinators that preceded its decision on Friday to impose a full lockdown as a “scary scenario.”
Even in Ireland, where 75.9% of the population is fully vaccinated, it is feeling a backlash against the disabled.
“There is a kind of hate speech that is being whipped against the unvaccinated,” she said.
The world had a history of mandatory vaccinations in many countries for diseases such as smallpox and polio. However, despite the global death toll from COVID-19 exceeding 5 million, despite overwhelming medical evidence that vaccines significantly protect against death or serious illness from COVID-19 and slow the spread of the epidemic, opposition to vaccinations remains strong. strongly between parts of the population.
About 10,000 people gathered in Prague this week, chanting “freedom, freedom” to protest the Czech government’s restrictions on non-vaccinators.
Professor Paul de Grauwe of the London School of Economics replied: “There is no absolute individual liberty.” “The freedom not to vaccinate must be restricted to ensure the freedom of others to be healthy,” he wrote to the liberal think-tank Liberales.
This principle now distances friends from one another and divides families across European countries.
Birgit Schönmakers, a general practitioner and professor at the University of Leuven, you see it almost on a daily basis.
“It turned into a fight between people,” she said.
She sees political struggles fueled by people who deliberately spread conspiracy theories, but also intensely human stories. One of her patients was prevented from leaving her parents’ house because she was afraid she would be vaccinated.
Shoemakers said that while authorities have long rejected the idea of mandatory vaccinations, the highly contagious Delta variant is changing minds.
“Making a U-turn on this is very difficult,” she said.
Soaring injuries and reining in measures combine to usher in a bleak second consecutive holiday season in Europe.
Leuven has already canceled its Christmas market while a 60-foot Christmas tree was set up in nearby Brussels in the center of the city’s stunning Grand Place on Thursday, but the decision on whether to go ahead with the holiday market in the Belgian capital will depend on the development of the virus escalation.
Paul Ferindels, who donated the tree, hopes to return to what looks like a traditional Christmas.
“We are glad to see that they are making an effort to place and decorate the tree. After nearly two difficult years, I think it is a good thing that some things are happening again, more normal in life,” he said.
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