On France and cautionary tales – Pauline Bock in NYT:
‘At a time of the year when the French are traditionally divided between “juillettistes” (who go on holiday in July) and “aoûtiens” (who go in August), the past few weeks have seen hundreds of thousands of people coming together with a single rallying cry: “Liberté!”
These protesters are united against France’s new system of vaccine passes, which was announced with much fanfare by the government on July 12 and is gradually coming into effect. The measures, intended to lift the vaccination rate as the Delta variant courses around the country, make proof of vaccination — or a negative coronavirus test — mandatory to get into cultural venues, bars and restaurants. By September, all care workers will need such a pass to retain their job and workers on a permanent contract may be suspended without pay until they can provide one.
Though to some extent successful in its primary aim — in the weeks since, 6.5 million people have been vaccinated, taking the level to 47 percent, about the same proportion as in the United States — the move has rebounded badly against the government. Many people, unhappy at the act of coercion, are taking to the streets in a collective display of defiance, potentially coalescing into a substantial protest movement that could mar President Emmanuel Macron’s re-election efforts next year. As governments across the world consider similar policies, France’s experience is a cautionary tale.’
‘Though vaccine skepticism is comparatively high in France — 16 percent of residents don’t intend to be vaccinated, according to a recent survey — by the time Mr. Macron announced the imminent rollout of vaccine passes on July 12, over half the French population, 36 million people, had received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. Clearly, most French people are not morally opposed to getting the shot. Instead, their concerns center less on vaccination itself than on the freedoms and rights possibly infringed by the new measures.
After all, the social and economic implications are dizzying. Will France’s labor laws have to be changed to include a vaccination obligation? Will it be legal to fire employees who don’t comply? Can businesses, already hurt by the pandemic, survive instituting passes? (Cinemas, which already request health passes, have seen the number of customers nearly halved.)
There are darker concerns, too. Protesters fear that the passes will allow for wide-ranging state surveillance, potentially targeting the most vulnerable and even suppressing dissent. There is no guarantee, they warn, that the system will be retired once the virus is defeated. Ironically, the only trade that’s exempt from mandatory vaccination — the police — will be the one to make sure everyone else obeys. The policy is ripe for authoritarian misuse.’
‘Throw in the fact that the health ministry, citing budget reasons, has continued to reduce the country’s total number of hospital beds during the crisis, the contradictory information shared by clueless ministers and arbitrary lockdown rules, and it’s little wonder why people choose not to believe what the French state is telling them.
In an atmosphere of doubt and suspicion, some people are turning to conspiracy and anti-vaccine theories, weaponized by opportunistic politicians such as Florian Philippot, formerly a leader in Marine Le Pen’s National Rally. The organizer of recent marches in Paris, Mr. Philippot is calling for a “phenomenal coup de force” for Aug. 5, the day France’s Constitutional Council will review the vaccine passport bill. Though the protests are protean, their motivations varied, there is clearly a radicalized minority, vulnerable to populist persuasion.
The marches, with their violent clashes against the press and shocking comparisons to the darkest hours of World War II, are far from an enlightened cry for emancipation. But it’s hard to blame the protesters, either, for reminding us that it didn’t have to be this way. With much-needed public health funding, some coordination, political vision and the honesty to recognize and learn from one’s mistakes, France could have led a strong, informed campaign for vaccination and kept at bay the anti-vaccine political agitators.
Instead, Mr. Macron chose to infantilize the French — and they did not like it.’
Read the article here.
France is France.
I don’t expect any huge protests in NY because of the requirement of being vaccinated before you can enter all kinds of public places. You can dine on the terrace without being vaccinates, I assume you can go to the bathroom while dining outside, but indoor dining is only for the vaccinated, so once again life and especially well-meant measurements are rife with absurdities. But that’s not my point.
Once again: I’m vaccinated, I would recommend getting a vaccine. But I know that the state is a monster, not so much a potential monster, so I would like the state to remain a monster in the cage and I would not like all kinds of private enterprises to become small airports with all kinds of security checks.
I believe it’s acceptable that the state offers 100 us dollars (or any other amount) in order to seduce people to get their vaccine. Our souls are for sale, let’s not big make a big fuss about it.
I believe it’s justifiable to offer people money in order to get vaccinated.
It’s less justifiable to deny people the right to dine inside or to enter a museum without a vaccine. It’s a thin line between an incentive and coercion, but this thin line should not be erased.
Out of solidarity with the unvaccinated I will dine only outdoors as soon as I’ll be back in NY, and I will be back soon.
By the way, let’s pray that Le Pen doesn’t win the elections in 2022.