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We are not out of the woods yet on restoring liberties post-Covid

NPHET has finally smelt the coffee, after two years of disproportionate, dangerous, and scientifically shallow policy recommendations.

It has finally recommended the removal of almost all Covid restrictions and regulations, including a return to normal opening hours for hospitality and the end of the use of the vaccination pass for pubs and restaurants. However, mask mandates will remain in place, at least for the time being.

This decision was probably influenced by the overwhelming evidence that fighting Covid with non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) is now a fool’s errand. Some factors that render NPIs patently absurd against Omicron (they were always scientifically unsupported, but now they are patently absurd):

  • The mounting evidence that Omicron quickly spread to the whole population irrespective of government measures
  • evidence that Omicron infections have already peaked in Ireland, as they have in the UK
  • hospital data showing Omicron infections have proved far less virulent than previous variants of Covid

All of these factors probably influenced NPHET’s recommendation to drop most Covid measures. But there is also the political landscape to consider: Politically, the public fatigue with Covid measures is palpable, and having a neighbouring country, England, phasing out all Covid restrictions, obviously put pressure on the Irish government and NPHET to rethink their draconian approach.

While the end of vaccine passes and lockdowns in Ireland is obviously cause for celebration, we are not quite out of the woods, for a few reasons:

  • First, mask mandates remain in place in Ireland, for now. The reality is that there is no compelling evidence to show that community masking worked to reduce disease incidence at any time during the pandemic. But at this stage in the game, even if you are inclined to take a gamble on mask efficacy, it is unclear what is now to be gained by masking the general population against a virus they will all be exposed to anyway.
  • Secondly, border testing remains in place (in Ireland’s case, for reasons that remain unclear, expensive PCR tests). Frankly, given the fact that Omicron is now spreading like wildfire across Europe, keeping any border testing in place is as silly as testing for common colds as a condition for entry. It is totally irrelevant from an epidemiological perspective, and only serves to inconvenience and punish travellers for no good reason, and bloat the profits of the testing industry.
  • Third, vaccine passports remain in place for international travel, even if domestic passports are being dismantled. This is simply unintelligible from a medical and scientific perspective. Health passes for travel within Europe should be scrapped forthwith, as they serve no useful purpose.
  • Fourth, health personnel as well as employees of numerous institutions remain under severe pressure in many other countries to vaccinate, even those who take the view that their personal risk-benefit ratio is not favourable. That is an egregious violation of informed consent.

To sum up: the lifting of most Covid restrictions in Ireland, especially the vaccine pass, is wonderful news, likely to create further momentum for the international collapse of the Covid regime. But we still have some way to go before an international consensus emerges that the masking of health people serves no useful purpose. And it is imperative, as a matter of justice and common sense, that vaccine passports for international travel be dismantled right away; and that the principle of informed consent be restored in all institutional settings across the world.

So roll up your sleeves, because the fight to restore our basic liberties is far from over.

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