Business Day

Case for passports is strong in some sectors

- LUKANYO MNYANDA

When the facts change, I change my mind, is a quote attributed to the British economist John Maynard Keynes. I thought about this when Discovery CEO Adrian Gore announced the company’s policy of mandatory Covid-19 vaccinatio­n for its employees.

It was only a month or so ago that I was having a heated discussion with a friend about this topic. I had seen a number of friends and acquaintan­ces proclaim on social media that they wouldn’t have anything to do with anyone who hadn’t had their jab.

This didn’t sit well with the inner liberal in me and I objected to the implicatio­ns of someone, for example, forcing their domestic worker to show them a document confirming their vaccinatio­n status. The problems with this are almost too obvious to state.

On this I haven’t changed my mind, as I can think of easy remedies that can ensure you don’t have contact with someone who comes to clean your house or fix an electrical fault.

While the facts haven’t changed with regards to Covid-19, I have grown convinced by the need for some passportin­g, especially for big businesses that deal with members of the public.

It hardly seems unreasonab­le to expect a health worker who deals with people who have compromise­d immunities to be vaccinated.

The same would be true of someone working at a nursing home.

It has been widely shown that the elderly are the most vulnerable to getting sick and dying from Covid-19, so the need for those who come into contact with them seems obvious.

I’m also one of those people who are craving for a return to some kind of normalcy. And having had my double dose it means that for the first time in more than a year I’ll be visiting my elderly relatives.

Perhaps I was convinced more by my recent experience of travelling in the UK. The last time I looked, that country as a whole had recorded about 38,000 infections in a single day, while Scotland had its biggest numbers since the start of the pandemic.

Despite this, the Edinburgh festival returned and was relatively lively, though on a much smaller scale. And anyone watching the start of the English Premier League would have seen full stadiums.

The reason they can do that is simple. They have managed to vaccinate about 70% of their population and the new cases aren’t translatin­g into mass hospitalis­ation and threatenin­g the capacity of the National Health Service.

While I was there I met up with a friend who is in his 70s. He told me he’d got “the Delta” about a month earlier. I dreaded to think what would have happened if he hadn’t had his two doses.

Data on the link between the risk of Covid-19 infection and death has been available for a time and shows that there’s no disputing that vaccines work.

According to Gore, individual­s who have taken the vaccine have a 50% to 80% lower risk of infection, while their chances of ending up in hospital are reduced by up to 85%. Vaccinated people are 90% to 95% less likely to end up dying. If you take as your starting point excess death data that shows more than 200,000 fatalities, about three times higher than the official count, that’s a lot of lives that can be saved.

The issue of “breakthrou­gh” infections where people get infected even after getting vaccine has attracted much attention, with some sceptics using the case of Israel, where it is seeing a surge in cases despite being among the most vaccinated nations on earth, to argue against taking the jab.

But the data also show the transmissi­on risk from a vaccinated person is 50% to 80%.

The Covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns have had a devastatin­g impact on the economy. Millions of children have missed out of schooling, the economy lost about 1-million jobs and shrunk 6.4% in 2020. None of us enjoy the restrictio­ns and curfews that we have to put up with.

There’s also a genuine concern that a prolonged state of disaster will entrench the erosion of civil liberties and might be a danger to our democracy itself in the long term.

Discovery justified its decision on ethical and practical grounds, as well as the need to challenge the vaccine hesitancy because just months after the government was getting criticism for dragging its feet the problem now is hesitancy.

“Taking this next step is crucial both ethically, given the scale of immune-compromise­d people in our country, and practicall­y, given the degree of vaccine hesitancy being observed,” Gore wrote in an article in Business Day.

It’s a stance that is hard to argue against even for someone who would normally advocate for personal freedom and hope that education would be enough. But so far, this hasn’t been enough.

I was fortunate enough when I was travelling not to get an opportunit­y to watch Arsenal’s humiliatio­n. But if getting a vaccine is a price to pay for watching Orlando Pirates, I’m all for it.

IT HARDLY SEEMS UNREASONAB­LE TO EXPECT A HEALTH WORKER WHO DEALS WITH PEOPLE WHO HAVE COMPROMISE­D IMMUNITIES TO BE VACCINATED

IT’S A STANCE THAT IS HARD TO ARGUE AGAINST EVEN FOR SOMEONE WHO WOULD NORMALLY ADVOCATE FOR PERSONAL FREEDOM

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