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OPINION…On Omicron, racism, travel ban, and other issues

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I am pro-vax, but vaccination has its limitations. It does not confer complete protection, and new variations of the virus – the latest being Omicron – are bound at some point to become more resistant to vaccinations.

And, every time that happens it will take probably the best part of a year to develop, test, approve and fully roll out any new vaccination that will offer better resistance to the new strain – by which time, said new strain is already endemic if it’s more transmissible than existing variants.

Covid-19 is certainly a nasty illness that should be taken seriously, especially by those who are vulnerable to it. For the elderly and infirm especially, it can be a serious risk. But it is not dangerous enough — if anything could be — to justify the frightening atmosphere which is rising across the world.

The authoritarian response to the virus has become the go-to solution for governments everywhere, and the climate of fear in society as a whole has often meant enthusiastic support for such a response.

As the vaccines fail to end the pandemic, new variants continue to arise and every promise of “unlocking” ends with the reimposition of restrictions, so the calls grow for more clampdowns, more segregation, more isolation, and internment. With each call, a new roughness comes over the culture.

Covid is a revelation. It has laid bare splits in the social fabric that were always there but could be ignored in better times. It has revealed the compliance of the mainstream media, and the power of the media to curate and control the public conversation. It has confirmed the sly dishonesty of political leaders and their ultimate obeisance to corporate power. It has shown how ideology, on all sides, can mask itself with the pretend neutrality of “science”.

In the last month alone, I have watched media commentators calling for censorship of their political opponents, philosophy professors justifying mass internment, and human rights lobby groups remaining silent about “vaccine passports”.

I have watched countless “liberals” campaigning against liberty. As freedom after freedom has been taken away, I have watched intellectual after intellectual justify it all.

To further contextualise this, predominantly white Europe, the United States, Canada, and Australia currently account for the majority of nations where the Omicron variant has been reported. Yet, presidents and prime ministers in the European Union did not lockdown travel within EU borders, aside from Austria’s total lockdown already in place for the continent’s COVID-19 surge under the Delta variant.

This is in the face of the generally acknowledged fact that travel bans for infectious diseases, especially selective ones like these, have scant science to attest to their effectiveness, especially for a disease where infections can mushroom before people display symptoms.

Read also: OPINION: Towards consolidating the Nigerian health policies on climate change

These politicians continue to carry a flag of ignorance as the rejection of COVID-19 science has shredded the concept of the common good.

The ongoing nature of the COVID threat — the endless boosters, the endless variants — means there is no end in sight to this “new normal”.

The Covid vaccines, whatever their other virtues, have not prevented transmission of the virus, as governments have now publicly acknowledged. If they had, we would not be where we are. For this reason alone, there can be no justification for systems as divisive and anti-democratic as vaccine passports or lockdowns of the unvaccinated. If we were operating, as we pretend to be, from the ground of reason — if we really were “following the science” — then we would be dismantling these systems at this point. Instead, we are moving deeper into them.

I don’t have all the answers to this. To use a chess analogy, fighting COVID is like playing someone who’s always several moves ahead. You can’t “get ahead” of it. I am increasingly convinced we’re trying to fight the wrong battle, one that’s obviously unwinnable.

By all means, roll out boosters, get as many vulnerable people protected as possible, develop and roll out new treatments. These are all good things. But any solution that requires vaccinating 80+% of the world’s population – and keeping it vaccinated, year after year – is a pipe dream, an utterly futile attempt to wipe out a disease that’s already globally endemic.

We cannot prevent future mutations. This will keep happening. We cannot keep panicking and pointlessly locking down every time, ignoring the now fully known costs of doing so. That is not living with COVID, that is living with fear.


Articles published in our Graffiti section are strictly the opinion of the writers and do not represent the views of Ripples Nigeria or its editorial stand.

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