COLUMN/ THE WRITE LINE
Ratna and Awbuck Qandoe
Those of us who will live through the coronavirus pandemic will one day look back at these times and wonder how a certain virus dictated our lives for at least a couple of years – 2020 and 2021 – if not more.
The reality, however, is that these two most eventful years of the Covid-19 pandemic are a study in contrast.
If 2020 made us run for life as the pandemic exploded, 2021 saw many of us ducking for cover as pharma companies pushed governments to try to force people into taking experimental Covid-19 vaccine shots.
If the turning point in 2020 was how the virus expanded its footprint beyond China, the big moment of 2021 was the arrival of the Omicron variant, which has exposed Covid-19 vaccines as completely ineffective in eliminating the disease.
If 2020 was about governments imposing economically devastating lockdowns, 2021 was about governments imposing humiliating vaccine mandates.
SOCIAL SEGREGATION 2.0
Back in the 1990s, when South Africa (reluctantly?) decided to pull the shutter on apartheid, we never dreamt that something called a ‘coronavirus’ or ‘Omicron variant’ would one day bring social segregation back in vogue.
As we head into 2022, this is what it has boiled down to – Apartheid 2.0, a new era of social segregation that spans the entire world, not just South Africa.
So the deal is this. If you are vaccinated, you can return to normal life. If you are unvaccinated, you are a second-class citizen. No restaurants for you, no pubs, no malls, no shopping complexes, no theatres – also, no offices, no jobs, no visas in many cases.
The public has been pooled into two new classes – the vaccinated upper-class and the unvaccinated lower-class.
One won’t miss much if shopping malls are out of the way. But that’s not the point. These “no jab, no job” diktats and selective access to public spaces is straight out of the notorious South African apartheid rulebook.
It’s a dark irony that the Omicron variant, which is fuelling this Apartheid 2.0, was first detected in South Africa – the home of the original apartheid!
WHO’S SPREADING OMICRON?
There are loud warnings in the mainstream press and on social media platforms about the Omicron variant. The message from the pharma industry (read: profit-seeking vaccine makers) as well as the governments they influence is – beware, Omicron is here, so get vaccinated or get punished.
But how can getting vaccinated be the answer to a new variant? After all, Omicron is spreading around the world mainly via international flights, at least in the initial days since the new variant’s discovery.
It technically means international travellers – people who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 – are the ones who are mainly spreading it in these early days of the variant. Not people who are unvaccinated! Yet, it’s the unvaccinated who are being singled out and blamed for the virus’s resurgence.
It’s only been a month since Omicron was detected. Since then, the pharma industry, pro-vaccine advocates and seemingly pro-democracy governments have launched a sophisticated campaign to punish the unvaccinated or at least threaten them with social consequences.
Doesn’t matter if you argue that Omicron is spreading via fully vaccinated people (especially in the variant’s early days).
Doesn’t matter if you argue that you’re against the Covid-19 vaccine for personal reasons or inhibitions that you may have. Doesn’t matter that you are jittery about taking a shot that hasn’t been through the test of time like all other established vaccines.
Doesn’t matter if you argue that it’s your body, your choice.
It’s Apartheid 2.0 – you have no choice. The rules are quite like George W Bush’s “you are with us or against us” ultimatum.
Covid-19 infections are shooting up globally. The coronavirus is not discriminating between its victims – it’s infecting vaccinated and unvaccinated people alike, exposing the utter failure of the vaccines being administered.
But social segregation policies are being rolled out at a hectic pace. First, Austria and Greece made bold announcements of vaccine-induced segregation. Then Germany joined them. Soon, people started protesting over the anti-people measures as they spread across Europe. Across the Atlantic, New York City announced segregationist rules.
The segregation virus hit India as well. Karnataka announced segregationist bans involving malls and theatres, while Puducherry declared a vaccine mandate. All because two dozen Omicron cases were recorded mostly among international travellers who are doubly vaccinated.
Sensing tensions, the WHO (World Health Organization) has been forced to call upon countries to make vaccines mandatory only as a last resort and not as a knee-jerk reaction to Omicron.
The new apartheid policy also somewhat exposes the idea of ‘herd immunity’. Let’s say we agree that the vaccines are saving relatively more lives. But fully vaccinated people are still able to continue spreading the coronavirus, that’s the nature of this virus. And that’s the nature of these ineffective vaccines.
Even if the entire world population is vaccinated against Covid-19, people will continue to pass on the virus until the pathogen dies naturally. So, why this obsession for herd immunity and vaccination-for-all if that can’t stop the infection from spreading?
More importantly, why target the unvaccinated every single time a new wave of Covid-19 arrives? There’s still not a shred of evidence that shows the disease is wreaking havoc because of unvaccinated people.
In these tense times of a pandemic and divide-and-rule, how will the New Year unfold for us? Will South Africa-style segregation become the new normal? Will vaccine makers mint more money? Or will people rise up against Apartheid 2.0?
We have our hands full with two viruses. One is the Sars-CoV-2 pathogen. The other is the virus of social segregation (South African variant). Let’s hope both will die a natural death.