There’s been many hard days in the last 18 months; the day the pandemic was declared, the first lockdown, the second lockdown, lockdown three, the day with 725 cases, lockdown five and then lockdown six hard upon it. Perhaps the hardest day was last week when the CHO and Premier announced we wouldn’t get back to zero and while we could slow the spread, we now needed to prepare ourselves to live with covid.
Living with covid is a scarier prospect than lockdowns and the elimination strategy. If you have watched the news outside Australia, you know what living with covid means – lots of very sick people, some of whom with die of the disease.
That’s not a small thing to agree too. It’s not a decision we should take lightly because we are over the pandemic and want to go to the pub with our mates. The flip side of having our freedoms and so called “normal life” again means sickness and death to other people, particularly those who are unvaccinated. As a society is this something we want to agree to? Is going to a restaurant or seeing your family more important than another person’s right to be alive?
The argument is that you can get vaccinated and reduce the risk of getting covid. It really is a miracle that we have vaccines this early into the pandemic and as someone who is fully vaccinated I’m very happy to have done so. At the time, I didn’t think about this but by getting my vaccination, I was upholding my social responsibility to help protect others in the community as well.
Our social responsibility is what we agree to as societal norms and how we act together to live by them. At their most basic, they are the unspoken agreement to not do things that might harm each other – for example, not drink driving. They can also be actions that benefit society like picking up rubbish in your neighbourhood or planting trees in the park. Getting vaccinated is an action that fits into both of these categories because it minimises harm to others and allows us to consider safely reopening again.
None of our societal obligations are predicated on the fact we all agree or even like each other. They are purely an acceptance that all lives have value and everyone has the right to live. If you choose to act in accordance with your societal responsibilities then that choice benefits both the people you agree with and those whose views or actions you find abhorrent.
Opening up raises many uncomfortable questions for me around the belief in the value of other people’s lives and my obligation to minimise the risk to them. I’m going to repeat myself, opening up means some people will get sick and some people will die of Covid-19.
People die everyday, it’s inevitable and part of life. This isn’t to minimise its impacts; merely to state that it’s not something we can stop, and it is the end we will all come to. Accepting its hard inevitability is necessary and perhaps even healthy, though not welcomed or easy.
The question I keep asking myself is where does our responsibility to minimise harm to other people fit in with the plan to open up? For over 200 days, I’ve been in lockdown to flatten the curve, protect our health system and the most vulnerable in the community. If we open up and people get sick and die, is that just inevitable and the consequence of having to get on with life or is it something we should continue try to prevent?
In normal times these are not questions you would ask yourself. We already know the rules that help us to minimise harm to each other. Coronavirus has changed that equation. I believe it increases our obligation to act in a way that doesn’t harm each other. Of course the obligation runs both ways, but if you choose to participate in your social responsibility you do it even for those people who would refuse to do it for you.
We need to be very clear then that by opening up we are agreeing to an increase case numbers, hospitalisations and possibly deaths. These are difficult choices with life and death consequences. And we need to understand them and find a way to reconcile them as individuals and as a society.
While I’m sure I’m out on a limb here, I would personally rather stay in lockdown forever than one person die from this disease. My life is no more important than anyone else’s, so my right to see my family or go to the ballet can’t override another person’s right to be alive, even if that person has made selfish choices to not get vaccinated.
I also know it’s not realistic to stay in lockdown forever, it’s definitely not healthy or possibly even useful for lessening the long term effects of this virus on society. We do have to get on with life, whatever that means and looks like after all of this.
Getting vaccinated is the only way out, if you haven’t done so already please do. They are safe, and will keep you and your family, me and my family from getting sick and possibly dying. It’s the right thing to do for the sake of society that values your life as much as mine.