As we think about the future of international travel, we can look to what is going on in the nations around us for signs of what to expect. In Austria, the government is now planning to place unvaccinated citizens on lockdown…a big step beyond simply turning away unvaccinated folks from restaurants and bars. Will we destroy our world in order to “save” it?
As COVID-19 Numbers Rises, Austria Plans New Lockdown For Unvaccinated
Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said his nation is “days” away from placing people not fully-vaccinated against COVID-19 on lockdown. Under government health policy, if 30% or more of hospital patients in intensive care unit are being treated for COVID-19, unvaccinated citizens will be placed under lockdown. The current number stands at 20%, but is rising quickly, thus sparking the warning from Chancellor Schallenberg.
Calling Austria’s 67% vaccination rate “shamefully low,” Schallenberg said:
“According to the incremental plan we actually have just days until we have to introduce the lockdown for unvaccinated people.”
“A lockdown for the unvaccinated means one cannot leave one’s home unless one is going to work, shopping (for essentials), stretching one’s legs – namely exactly what we all had to suffer through in 2020…
“I don’t see why two-thirds should lose their freedom because one-third is dithering. For me, it is clear that there should be no lockdown for the vaccinated out of solidarity for the unvaccinated.”
Already, the Upper Austria region plans a lockdown for the unvaccinated beginning on Monday.
Austria does not have a vaccine mandate.
Vaccine Mandate or Lockdown?
Surging rates of COVID-19 in places like Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands foretell a fourth wave that will hit U.S. shores in the weeks to come. The question becomes what to do about persistently stubborn COVID-19 numbers…and persistently stubborn people who refuse to get the vaccine?
My leadoff question…will we destroy our world in order to “save” it?…is a loaded question, of course. But this is my concern: Schallenberg said the police would conduct spot checks to promote compliance.
Picture it. “Papers please.” In Austria. We had this discussion last month, but here’s where I come at this issue:
- There are no valid logical reasons to abstain from a COVID-19 vaccine from a risk/benefit perspective
- There are no valid religious reasons to abstain from a COVID-19 vaccine for any of the Abrahamic faiths
- Every adult who is not allergic to it would be wise to get a shot
- Just because the jab wanes in its effectiveness over time does not mean that it is worthless
- focusing on the breakthrough cases and side effects of the shot are like focusing on a broken faucet as the house burns
- Businesses are free to turn away unvaccinated customers
- Companies are free to require their employees be vaccinated
- Governments locking people in their homes over vaccination status is deeply troubling and violates more profound human rights
Austria is not the United States, but I view any legitimate government as the result of a compact with the people: certain rights are given up in exchange for certain protections and solutions to collective action problems.
I do believe our right to “freedom” ends when it infringes upon the freedom of others. I also believe that the government has an active and legitimate role to play in safeguarding public health.
So what’s the problem?
We’ve seen far too much government abuse over the centuries to justify such a heavy-handed tactic. No amount of benevolence or good intentions will make me comfortable with government agents going up to citizens and demanding to see their paperwork in a sense to check if they are guilty–to see if their papers are valid. On the streets. In the park. Outside their house of worship.
This is different than a sobriety checkpoint…or an airport security checkpoint. It gets to the heart of free movement within a country and subjects those to literal fear and intimidation who should instead be subjected to economic and persuasive coercion.
Yes, every adult should be vaccinated. But no, I’d rather take the risk of more easily catching COVID-19 from an idiot citizen than to lock that person in his own home. Such action; such segregation becomes a fertile breeding ground for the type of radicalism and social unrest that can turn out to be far more lethal to those impacted than any coronavirus strain.
As we think about travel and which countries to visit, the Austrian model scares me. Goodness, I know Austria just wants to beat the virus. I hope we all do. But I hope we realize that COVID-19 will be with us for a very long time, we better get used to it, and we better not destroy our world by using fear and intimidation to pit neighbor against neighbor, in order to save it. Because from my vantage point, that’s not saving it…