Emily Carver is Media Manager at the Institute of Economic Affairs.
Last week, I tweeted what I thought was a rather reasonable statement. Having seen several people comparing Europe’s Covid response – mandatory vaccinations, de facto lockdowns for the unvaccinated, and self-isolation rules – to Nazi Germany, I argued that it is does those of us who are against such measures no favours to make such a lazy comparison.
I stand by what I said, but the replies I received reflect a growing concern that our European neighbours are heading down a dark path.
Hundreds of Twitter users argued that it was wrong to dismiss the comparison; in their view, you’d have to be blind not to see the parallels between Nazi Germany and what we’re currently witnessing on the continent. I imagine the hundreds of thousands of people protesting across Europe would agree.
Indeed, considering the ease at which once unthinkable restrictions have been brought in across the Western world, it is hardly surprising that people are drawing historical comparisons with authoritarian regimes of the past.
In recent days, we’ve seen the German government impose a nationwide lockdown on the unvaccinated, who are now banned from all but the most essential businesses.
In what was a startling example of doublespeak, Angela Merkel justified the move as “an act of national solidarity”. Now, what is essentially a policy of segregation, and one that will undoubtedly contribute to a climate of hostility for a minority of German citizens, is being framed as an attempt to unify. You couldn’t make it up.
A two-tier society is no longer an exaggeration. Sure, she may rationalise this as being for the good of the masses, but in so doing, she must recognise she is trampling on the rights of the individual.
Should we just shrug our shoulders and accept that people no longer have a right to their own bodily autonomy? And now, with booster jabs available, will the bar continue to be raised, as those who haven’t yet been triple-jabbed have their freedoms curtailed once again until they do?
And, as if that wasn’t disturbing enough, German politicians continue to consider bringing in mandatory vaccinations; indeed, the incoming Chancellor Olaf Scholz reportedly supports such a policy – one which is already set to come into effect in neighbouring Austria from February.
Understandably, many people have questioned how governments intend to enforce such a law. Greece is threatening a fine of 100 euros a month for those over 60 years of age if they don’t get jabbed by mid-January. What happens if they refuse?
Brits may look across to Europe in horror. It’s true that right now we’re lucky to live where we live. No rising infections, no vaccine passports, no laws against gatherings. Besides from the nonsensical travel restrictions, isolation rules and mask mandates, we’re in pretty decent shape.
But we’re not out of the woods.
The language used to describe those who have chosen not to be jabbed is becoming more disturbing by the day. Respected journalists and commentators are arguing that the unvaccinated are “selfish”, that they are “taking beds from other sick people”, and that they deserve to be restricted from public spaces.
It’s not hyperbolic to argue that we’re seeing a demonisation of those who have not been jabbed. People in the healthcare profession have expressed their anger and frustration with the unvaccinated taking up ICU beds – indeed The Sunday Times splashed with the story ‘Doctors’ anger as unjabbed filled emergency beds’.
Yes, it is certainly true that unvaccinated Covid patients are more likely to need specialised care, but claims that they are responsible for overwhelming ICU beds are not. The data used in the article claims three quarters of the 20-30 per cent of critical care beds taken up by Covid patients are occupied by the unvaccinated. But this data is months old, only up to July this year.
It has been suggested that 90 per cent of Covid patients in hospital are unvaccinated – a statistic that continues to be shared online and on mainstream television.
But again, this refers to old data, covering months when there were very high hospital admissions and when very few people had been fully-vaccinated.
The real figure, as statistics from the UK Health Security Agency suggest, is now roughly 35-36 per cent, meaning over 60 per cent of adult Covid-related hospital admissions are fully vaccinated. It’s also worth noting that the total number of Covid patients in hospital is currently 80 per cent lower than the peak last January.
People who are unvaccinated must be free to make choices about their own health, even if that means they may be putting their own health at risk. Any liberal-minded person must reject the demonisation of what is now a small minority of people in this country – whatever your views are on vaccinations.
Ursula von der Leyen may believe it’s time for EU countries to start thinking about mandatory vaccinations, but the UK should not. It’s our opportunity to take full advantage of our independence, stand strong against the authoritarianism that is sweeping the continent, and ensure we’re on the right side of history.