September 25, 2023
News Opinion

MICHAEL WOLSEY: Everyone’s a loser in the game of Covid Consequences

As they do every winter, the ESB has been issuing warnings about not approaching fallen wires and the Road Safety Authority is cautioning against driving through flooded roads.

It’s sound advice but you don’t have to take it. If you want to move the cable that is blocking your path, or test your car’s ability to float, nobody will stop you. You will have to live with the consequences but you won’t be breaking the law.

And there’s nothing remarkable about that. It’s how we treat most advice that applies only, or mainly, to our own safety.

Check your fire alarm,we are told; get your chimney cleaned, don’t let Daniel O’Donnell service your gas boiler. We weigh it up and, because it is well-meaning advice from well-informed people, we go along with it. Or ignore it, if we think we know better.

The choice is ours and we’re happy with that. Except when it comes to Covid. Then, it seems, a lot of us want rules written into law, so we don’t have to make a decision. Thus the fuss over advice that children should mix a bit less with their mates.

When NPHET first issued the guidance, airwaves and social media were swamped by a tide of parental indignation. Mothers and fathers bewailed the suffering inflicted on their children by the loss of sleepovers, birthday parties and pantomimes.

When the Government finally got round to issuing its own recommendations there was, in fact, no mention of pantos. But it didn’t matter anyway because this was, and is, advice, not law.

Wise advice, in my opinion. But if you think differently, and can persuade other parents to send their children to your sleepover, party, or whatever, nobody will stop you. You’ve heard the opinion of experts and the possible consequences of ignoring it. So the choice is yours.

The same goes for the new guidance on the number of people you should allow in your home over Christmas.

If it were a law it would be unenforceable. But it’s not. It’s a choice. You can reject the advice if you want and then  you must live with the consequences.

Choice? Consequences? Shock! Horror!

Some of us don’t want choice and a lot of those who do, would rather not be faced with consequences.

A teacher told me of a confrontation with a parent who refused to get her son vaccinated but still wanted him to go on a trip to France being organised for next Spring.

The teacher explained that the matter was out of his hands. The tour company organising the trip simply would not accept an unvaccinated child.

The mother protested vehemently that she had a right to deny her son vaccination. The teacher agreed but pointed out that the coach operators and airlines had a right to pick their passengers and that the French government had a right to decide who it would let into the country.

There was no meeting of minds because, while this woman was prepared to make a choice, she did not want to live with the consequences.

This only seems to be a problem when Covid rules are involved.

I hear people complain because they were not allowed to enter a nightclub without a vaccination certificate. The same club would probably have refused them admission if they turned up wearing runners and a tracksuit. They might not like that either, but they understand it’s a consequence of breaching the dress code.

An airline will not allow you to fly if you arrive blind drunk at its desk, some bus companies won’t let you on board if you are carrying food and you can’t play for the All Blacks if you insist on wearing a white shirt.

The choice is yours, but you have to accept the consequences.

It’s tempting to pass responsibility to someone else. The Government does it all the time: “We follow the public health advice.” And Nphet does it too: “That is an executive decision.”

That’s how the game of Covid Consequences is played. It’s a game where everybody scores points but nobody wins.

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