Vaccine Mandates Abroad Suggest Ominous Lessons

Britain shines bright when you are far from home. Even more so when the continent is fast sinking into a dystopian nightmare.

So it was particularly heartbreaking to hear Boris Johnson, a few days ago, saying that the country needs to have a “national conversation” about vaccine mandates.

While he refrained from the topic in his recent televised address, there was an unmistakable sense of foreboding. “We are now facing an emergency” he said and we must “get boosted now to protect our NHS, our freedoms and our way of life.”

When asked about his concerns on further restrictions on Channel 4 news yesterday, Steve Baker, MP for Wycombe, said “this happens time and again. We get drawn into these things bit by bit with shifting goalposts.”

The jury is still out on Omicron but data seem to suggest that while it spreads faster, it is also much milder than previous strands.

In other countries, though, the new variant wasn’t even needed to justify increased restrictions.

In Austria for instance, where I currently live with my family, weeks before the appearance of Omicron the government had already started to work on the implementation of a “vaccine mandate” with a deadline of February 1, 2022.

When the law was mooted at the beginning of this month, the country’s Constitutional Minister, Karoline Edtstadler, thought that the new law would be unconstitutional. She said “the introduction of general compulsory vaccination naturally encroaches on fundamental rights.” She then added: “but it is necessary.”

In the meantime, the draft legislation has circulated. The Austrian government is proposing fines of up to EUR 3600 for those who refuse the COVID jab. If these fines go unpaid, the unvaccinated will be jailed for four weeks. Further fines of EUR 7200 have been proposed for recalcitrant recidivists.

The law is not yet on the books and yet the effects on families, friendships, and the society at large have already been devastating. People who two weeks ago were true friends, now tell you to your face that you should leave the country. They add that, in a French Jacobin undertone, you must comply for the general good. “Solidarity” is at stake.  

The fact that you pay taxes, obey the law, and are a good neighbor makes not a blind bit of difference. Your individual circumstances do not matter. The fact that the new wave is already in decline; that the survival rate of COVID is 99.87 percent; and that you, personally, are not in the danger zone, doesn’t wash. You must comply. You are a non-person if you don’t.

But what does “being vaccinated” officially mean? Is it one jab, two shots, a booster?

The Austrian National Tourist Office tells you: “two dose vaccinations are valid for 270 days.” For now, immunization gives you a free pass for 6 months. However, three months is being discussed.

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Salzburg virologist Richard Greil advocates four vaccinations—in a year. In the meantime, COVID infection rates are in steep decline.

Nevertheless a massive start must now be made in the background to begin the third or fourth vaccination” he says, adding “we may have to shorten the time interval for the third vaccination, which is [currently] six months.”

But why the insistence when over three quarters of the population in Austria is already vaccinated and the results are no different from those of her neighbors?

The European Centre for Disease Control tells us that Austria has a full (two jabs) vaccination rate of 76 percent for those over 18, with a death per 100,000 ratio of 141, or 0.14 percent according to the World Health Organization; Germany has a vaccination rate of 80 percent with a death per 100,000 ratio of 126, or 0.12 percent. France has a higher death per 100,000 ratio of 180, or 0.18 percent, and a higher vaccination rate.

Of note is that the United Kingdom beats Austria, Germany, and France in both vaccination and death rates. Indeed, the UK is the vaccination champion with figures hovering comfortably in the high 80 percent range and a death per 100,000 ratio of 215, or 0.25 percent—or 78 percent more dead in the UK than in Austria.

Still, in Austria, the vaccine mandate is fast becoming a reality for a significant minority. The consequences are real. In effect in Austria, and now in Germany, governments are proposing to interpose themselves between family members.

What happens if one member of the family, whom you love, is reluctant to take the vaccine and you are not?

Both are ostracized: no restaurants, no cinema, no museum, no gatherings, no outdoor activity like skiing, sports clubs or anything else deemed social. For a fifth of the population, the Alpine country is becoming a gilded prison.

The key is simply that the vaccine mandate will turn hitherto law-abiding citizens into criminals—or Verbrecher in the vernacular.

The choices are bleak. Force your spouse to take the vaccine and destroy trust between both in the process or find ways of not complying.

If the choice is between a close relative and a distant politician, naturally, most of us would choose our kith and kin. Non-compliance, fines, bailiffs, prison or emigration are the corollary.

The most obvious victim of this mandate is civility. Suspicion lurks. Each conversation starts with the dreaded questions: “Are you vaxxed”?

If, for personal reasons, you choose to deflect, you immediately become a marked person, subjected to bullying and incessant badgering. In Germany, for example, a report in Die Welt, a German newspaper, tells of children in class being summoned one by one to the front of the class. Once there, they are asked about their vaccination status.  

If they say they are vaccinated, double jabbed or on the way to their third shot at the mere age of 15, they are applauded; if they are not, they have to justify themselves.

In Mainz, the “wristband solution” is being implemented. These will be given out to shoppers who are either vaccinated or immune. Those, who are neither, but test negative, won’t be allowed to shop, apart from essentials in supermarkets and pharmacies.

There are dissenting voices in both countries. There were 27 demonstrations in Vienna last weekend. Other cities across the German speaking world have seen large protests, too, such as in Linz, Graz, Salzburg, and Munich.

These have brought together people from all walks of life and all political camps but they are derided by the mainstream and branded “extreme right.”

Britain and America must not follow suit.

If Boris Johnson is going to have a discussion on the topic, let it be based on observable developments in Austria and Germany and may he listen to the concerns of his own backbenchers.

It is heart-warming to read reports of potential rebellions against the government on further coronavirus restrictions in the United Kingdom.

As Chris Lodger, MP for West Dorset, wrote in the Daily Telegraph regarding the parliamentary vote on Plan B: “there is huge concern that this is just the thin end of the wedge.”

With potentially 80 MPs rebelling, it is a reminder of the potential strengths of our parliamentary system. Members of parliament are directly elected by the people of the constituency and therefore much more responsive to them; Austrian and German politicians are not. Theirs is a list-based system which gives all powers to centralized political parties.

Those who can see where this is going should do what they can to make sure that Britain and America remain beacons of hope in an ever darkening world and reject ever more restrictions and mandates.

A free United Kingdom will shine hope on many on the other side of the Channel.

Alex Story is a senior manager at a London brokerage. He represented Great Britain in rowing at the Olympic Games. In 2016 he won the right to represent the people of Yorkshire and the Humber in the European Parliament but didn’t take the seat.

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By Frank Bergman

Frank Bergman is a political/economic journalist living on the east coast. Aside from news reporting, Bergman also conducts interviews with researchers and material experts and investigates influential individuals and organizations in the sociopolitical world.

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