Features Australia

Covid roulette

It’s OK to confuse Austria and Australia

27 November 2021

9:00 AM

27 November 2021

9:00 AM

Australians are used to their country being confused with Austria because they share a common syllable. Unfortunately, this week, the confusion is due to their rival status as the world’s craziest Covid dystopia.

Austria shocked even the more rabid Covid authoritarians by announcing that it would make Covid vaccinations compulsory from 1 February. In Vienna, the state is already booking appointments for unvaccinated people. Those who refuse are likely to face fines or a prison sentence.

Austria has already implemented a ‘2G’ rule for leisure facilities, which requires people to be either vaccinated or to have recovered from Covid; there is no longer a provision to provide a negative Covid test. It then implemented a ‘lockdown for the unvaccinated’, who are not allowed to enter most stores and public spaces and have to provide reasons to the police if they leave their home.

In recent weeks, cases have accelerated rapidly and the state-funded television anchor Sarah Frühauf made no bones about whom to blame. ‘To all the unvaccinated: thanks a lot!’, she declared on national television. It was thanks to the unvaccinated, she claimed, that Austrians would be spending the winter in lockdown, there wouldn’t be Christmas markets and people would not be able to celebrate the Christmas holidays with their families.

Actually, the spike in cases in Austria coincides with the commencement of booster shots and follows the same steep trajectory, just as the initial vaccination doses in December 2020 and January 2021 coincided with a steep increase in cases in many countries such as the UK, Israel and the US.

Indeed, as an intensive care doctor wrote in a letter to an Austrian newspaper, ‘Of all Covid patients in the ICU, about 80 per cent are over 50 years old, and most have widely recognised risk factors such as high blood pressure, heart failure or diabetes. Of the patients younger than 50 who end up in ICUs with Covid, 80 per cent are varying degrees of overweight’. He suggested that instead of vaccinating the entire population (including healthy children and adolescents), perhaps the vaccine mandates should be confined to those groups.

In Australia, Senator Jacqui Lambie exploded with spittle-flecked rage as she attacked Senator Pauline Hanson’s Bill to ban Covid vaccine mandates. Sporting a bright pink shirt, Lambie appeared to be channelling Greta Thunberg when the teen snarled at the world, ‘How dare you?’ The senator claimed in parliament this week that ‘the way out of lockdowns and restrictions is vaccinations because there’s nothing else on the table… it’s the only weapon we have’. Barring the unvaccinated from participating in public life isn’t discrimination, she roared, it’s ‘being held accountable for your own actions… it’s called being, you wouldn’t believe it, a God-damn bloody adult’.

Senator Hanson was a picture of serenity in comparison, calling for the federal government to override the states and ban all vaccine mandates which she hopes will ‘arrest and reverse the pandemic of discrimination that has been unleashed on the Australian people’. Five Coalition senators crossed the floor to support the Bill but the rest of the federal government is doing its best to walk both sides of the street, insisting the vaccine is optional, but supporting the right of state and territory governments and private companies to impose vaccine mandates on staff and restrict entry to venues to the double-vaccinated. The mandated use of vaccine passes to enter businesses will end in NSW on 15 December, if Premier Dominic Perrottet keeps his word (he has already moved back the deadline once from 1 December) but vaccine passes are set to endure indefinitely in the rest of Australia.

In the US, House Republicans are also demanding an end to vaccine mandates, noting they will crush businesses and create unemployment. In this they are backed by Steve Forbes, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of Forbes Media who recently wrote that, ‘President Biden’s diktat forcing private employers to get their workers vaccinated or frequently tested or face heavy fines will be going the way of discarded needles’ because it set an awful precedent. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has officially halted enforcement of ‘vaccine mandate’ following a federal court order.

Lambie wasn’t the only politician losing her cool. Chief Minister of the Northern Territory Michael Gunner was apoplectic over the definition of an anti-vaxxer. ‘If you are anti-mandate, you are absolutely anti-vaxx’, regardless of your personal vaccination status, he thundered at a startled journalist, eyes bulging, adding ‘Stuff it! Shove it! We are absolutely gonna make sure as many Territorians as possible are vaccinated!’ Gunner has at least one dictionary – the Merriam-Webster – backing his redefinition of the anti-vaxxer slur. Who knew? Yet Gunner’s ire is possibly driven more by the opprobrium he is receiving, outside of Australia, for using the army to forcibly transfer indigenous Australians who are close contacts of Covid cases into the quarantine camps in Howard Springs.

Like Lambie, Gunner’s justification is that the vaccine ‘is our best protection’ against Covid. Yet the data from the UK contradicts that assertion. An angry National Health Service respiratory consultant wrote anonymously in the Guardian last week that the ‘‘ICU is full of the unvaccinated – my patience with them is wearing thin’, yet the data from Public Health England shows that in the last month, 82 per cent of all Covid deaths were in vaccinated people even though only 74 per cent of the population is vaccinated. Worse, vaccine efficacy appears to be declining each week in all age groups and is negative in all people over 30.

A study from the University of Ummea in Sweden suggests a reason for this. They write that their findings provide evidence of the spike protein in vaccines entering the nucleus of cells and hijacking the DNA damage repair machinery and impairing adaptive immunity.

That’s not the only ominous news. The latest data from Public Health Scotland shows that excess deaths have been increasing since May, with a 40 per cent increase compared with the pre-pandemic five-year average, and the largest increase in excess deaths has occurred in in those under 65 years of age. In particular, the data shows that 15 – 44-year-olds have suffered a terrifying increase in adverse cardiovascular events.

Lambie defended mandatory vaccination because state premiers ‘don’t want to be playing Russian roulette with other people’s lives’.

Unfortunately, one way or another, that seems to be the game we are all being forced to play.

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