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Government’s new travel policy: Being vaccinated is not good enough.

Regular readers will know that in general, if you want definitive headlines on Gript, you should read my colleague Ben Scallan, who tends to take a… more clearly defined line on matters around covid than yours truly does. But in this case, it is fair to say that the Government’s new travel policy completely destroys their existing policy on vaccine passports. To claim that the case for vaccine passports has been destroyed is a fairly strong statement. It is also, in this case, fairly indisputable. Here is why:

The Government’s new policy, for those who are not clear, is as follows, courtesy of the Irish Times:

We now know that everybody who arrives in the State, whether vaccinated or not, will need a negative Covid-test result from 12.01am on Friday, December 3rd, onwards.

Consider what this means: It means that, officially, the state’s policy is that being fully vaccinated – even triple vaccinated – against Covid 19 is no longer enough. The state no longer has confidence that a fully, or fully boosted, person, is not a threat to Irish society. That is the policy.

Which poses the obvious question: What remaining value exists in vaccine passports? They now admit to a document stating that you, too, are insufficiently protected against covid 19 to enter the state. Nothing more than that.

Defenders of vaccine passports will, of course, ignore this, and continue to insist that the real purpose of vaccine passports is to coerce people into getting vaccinated. Which, they insist, is a social good.

But why is it a social good? The state no longer sees any special value in it, at least as regards travel.

And how effective can it be as a coercion, any longer, if you can travel without it, and having one does you no good at all?

Aside from the obvious points above, this new policy is also yet another egregious breach of trust. People – not just in Ireland, but across the world – have been given hoop after hoop through which they have been told to jump. Vaccinations were presented to them – and are still being presented to them – as the way out of the pandemic. And yet, here is the Irish Government, effectively and officially saying that having been vaccinated makes no difference at all.

On the basis of what evidence?

There is some speculation – some – that the Omicron variant might be more vaccine resistant than previous variants. But at this stage, speculation is all that it is. Even if the variant ultimately proves to be vaccine resistant, there is very little evidence (in fact, no evidence) that it is more virulent or causes more serious illness than the delta variant. This policy treats Omicron as a form of existential threat, and presupposes that the vaccines are effectively useless against it.

That is a terrible message.

Politicians and mainstream media seem entirely incapable of recognising, at this point, that the strongest arguments against the covid 19 vaccines are coming from inside their own house. My own view is evidence of this: I am fully vaccinated and willing to take a booster. Yet, at the same time, Government policy effectively and openly tells me that the vaccine and the booster is not enough, and, by their actions, undermine any confidence that somebody like me might have that taking a booster will improve my chances.

As for those who have not been vaccinated, and have been fulminating online and offline about vaccine passports? This travel policy vindicates them on the latter point entirely.

There’s something of a contradiction between a state which, on the one hand, says that vaccines are entirely essential and almost mandatory, and, on the other hand, says that vaccinated people remain too much of a risk to allow into the state.

Either the vaccine is worth having, or it makes very little difference.

Mainstream media are determined not to notice this fundamental contradiction in Government messaging. More and more ordinary people, however, are noticing it. And their numbers will only grow, undermining confidence in the authorities at every step.

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