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Opinion: Walls closing in on unvaccinated

'Get on the bus or get out of the way'
The unvaccinated in B.C. made up 93 per cent of those hospitalized with COVID-19 in the last month.

They say smart leaders don’t drag people places they’re not ready to go. It’s better to get people onside first, convince them that they want to eat a meal instead of jamming it down their throats.

Otherwise, brace for a backlash. Think Clover Point. Think of Gordon Campbell, burned at the stake after blindsiding British Columbians with the HST.

But vaccine passports? It’s officialdom that has been struggling to hold back a dog straining at the leash, eager to go charging down that road.

Monday, we learned that anyone wanting to enter a restaurant, club, ticketed sporting event, gym, choir practice, movie, concert or other discretionary indoor event will need to show a new document called a B.C. vaccine card to get in.

You’ll have to download it on your phone (there will be alternatives for those without a device) and show it along with other ID if want to join the rest of the world in going to a game, or having a beer on a pub patio, or even doing the chicken dance at a wedding. With case counts rising, it’s the only way to keep such places open, was the message. Couldn’t do that with the unvaccinated running loose.

About time, said those who have been wishing Dr. Bonnie et al would get tougher on the recalcitrant. Many have lost patience with the anti-vaxxers they blame for dragging out the pandemic and endangering those around them.

Last week, a survey by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies found three-quarters of Canadians wanted a vaccine passport like the one being implemented in Quebec, where as of Sept. 1 people will need to show proof of vaccination before entering enclosed public places such as restaurants, theatres and stores.

At the same time, an Angus Reid poll showed that 75 per cent of Canadians agreed with the statement “I don’t have a lot of sympathy for people who chose not to be vaccinated and then got COVID-19.” In B.C., 53 per cent favoured making vaccines mandatory in public places to make life harder for unvaccinated people, while another 22 per cent favoured using a combination of regulation and incentives.

Why? Last week, in a New York Times essay titled The Quiet Rage of the Responsible, Paul Krugman put it this way: “When you reject your shots or refuse to mask up, you’re increasing my risk of catching a potentially deadly or disabling disease, and also helping to perpetuate the social and economic costs of the pandemic. In a very real sense, the irresponsible minority is depriving the rest of us of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Monday, Bonnie Henry trotted out figures showing that the unvaccinated made up 93 per cent of those hospitalized with COVID-19 in the last month. “Your risk is 10 times higher if you’re not protected by vaccine,” she said.

Also this: Vaccinated people who do contract COVID will shed the virus for a shorter period than the unvaccinated, and will be less likely to infect others.

That’s why we now hear stories of adult children telling their parents “We love you, but we can’t let you see your grandchildren again until you’ve had your shots.” It’s why outfits like the Winnipeg Jets didn’t wait for government direction, just went ahead and announced that the unvaccinated would be barred from games. The Toronto Blue Jays followed suit on Monday.

More is coming.

Employers who were told that privacy rules prevent them from even asking about an individual’s vaccine status are now being confronted by staff who demand protection against unvaccinated co-workers.

Henry’s office is talking to Worksafe B.C. about such issues. Federal employees have already been told vaccines will be required as early as the end of September. The City of Toronto just announced something ­similar.

So have some private sector employers in Victoria.

New rules for B.C. K-12 schools and post-secondary institutions will be revealed today amid calls for more restrictions. “We need our institutions of higher learning to follow the science and implement vaccine and masking requirements on campus,” UVic Faculty Assoc. president Lynne Marks said this month.

The overall impression is of momentum shifting, of walls closing in. The new route has been chosen, is the message. Get on the bus or get out of the way.