Noodkreet. @LithuanianGovt @LithuaniaMFA blijkt de stille vaccinatieplicht-hel van Europa
Is gewoon een EU-land hè, maar eigenlijk wist tot nu toe niemand buiten Litouwen dat de situatie er zo doodziek is.
We lazen vandaag een zeer beheerste noodkreet uit de Baltische staat, genaamd "Covid Pass in Lithuania and throughout Europe: How recent vaccine mandate laws have upended my family's life". Het is in feite een verslag van hoe een ongevaccineerde Litouwse vader, zwangere moeder met chronische progessieve ziekte en twee kinderen binnen een paar maanden volledig gemarginaliseerd zijn. Het leven wordt hen echt nagenoeg onmogelijk gemaakt. Beide ouders zijn op onbetaald verlof gestuurd, ze mogen bijna nergens naar binnen en een coronatest die effectief maar zo'n 1,5 dag geldig is, kost tussen de 60 en 75 euro. Zelfs Italië verbleekt bij het Litouwse coronaregime.
De anonieme auteur, 'Gluboco' (@), schrijft: "All I want is to get the message out. I'm not social media savvy. I have zero platform. I'm just an ordinary man trapped in a Kafkaesque world of mind-numbing absurdity. So I'd be deeply grateful for any help you can give to draw attention to this message." Hij is voor "Comments, questions, ideas, corrections" te bereiken op 'firstname.lastname@example.org'.
Het is een lange, nergens polemische of oneigenlijk aanvoelende tekst met veel bronvermeldingen verwijzend naar staand beleid en citaten van politici. Oordeel zelf, maar wij lezen hier geen tekst van een wappie - die hij zelf overigens ook uitvoerig beschrijft.
Onderstaand een aantal geselecteerde alinea's uit het stuk, een overzicht van de opgelegde beperkingen in de afbeelding onderaan. We passen de volgorde van de alinea's een beetje aan, en beginnen met het stuk over hoe de maatregelen absoluut neerkomen op vaccinatiedwang en het verstikkende sociale stigma rondom scepsis en onwil.
"How recent vaccine mandate laws have upended my family's life
(...) In this article, I'll describe the details of how the Covid Pass works in my country and how it affects my family. As a start, we're banned from shopping centers, non-essential stores, and restaurants. And my wife and I were both were suspended from our jobs without pay. (...) There hasn't been much reporting in English-language media about what has happened. So I thought a detailed first-hand account would be useful. (...)
Coercion to vaccinate
The government contends that the vaccine is not mandatory because you can still get the Opportunity Pass if you have immunity from infection or if you do tests.
However, it's a fig-leaf to mask the pressure to vaccinate.
Our government pays lip service to immunity from prior infection, but in practice makes it difficult to use as a basis to receive the Opportunity Pass. Officials explain that they've made it burdensome because they don't want citizens to purposefully infect themselves in order to avoid vaccination.
As for the testing option, it is similarly designed to be difficult. Before the introduction of the Covid Pass regime, people could get tests for free at various places through the government health plan. Now, it's mandatory that testing for the Opportunity Pass must be done at a private lab or medical institute - no mobile labs or home tests - and be paid privately. A negative result is valid for only 48 hours from the time of the sample. So you would have to do a test every 1-2 days in order to live your life freely. The money and time make that difficult for the vast majority of people. (...)
Our government mandated that only a PCR test is acceptable to get the Pass, rather than the cheaper rapid antigen test. Government leaders explicitly created this requirement in order to increase the burden of testing.
The burden of the PCR test is the time and money. Labs offer PCR tests for 60-75 eur and give results in 12-24 hours. The government only recognizes the test as valid for 48 hours from when the swab sample is taken, not from when you receive the result from the lab. With the wait to get the result, this means you would need a test almost every day in order to maintain a valid Covid Pass and continue your life without restrictions.
That number of tests would cost more than 1000 eur in lab fees per person per month, plus the time of going to the lab. (...) There's been a lot of controversy about the PCR-only requirement because it's obviously vindictive, so the Cabinet has indicated that they are changing the rules to also allow the cheaper antigen test.
But whatever form of a test they allow, the intention is clear: the government is putting maximum pressure on us to get vaccinated. Our freedom has become conditional on vaccination or daily testing.
Opponents of vaccine mandates are muted with the label of "anti-vaxxers", which in our post-Soviet society is seen as a person who is irrationally fatalistic, mystical, illiterate, selfish, anti-modern, and anti-science.
That's driven away most mainstream people who might oppose the restrictions on principle. And that leaves as opponents mainly rabble-rousers and kooks that mainstream people don't want to be associated with. Which makes mainstream opponents even more queasy to join. Which leaves even crazier people as the sole opposition. And so on, in a vicious spiral to the bottom.
Given the political situation in our country, the result is that many of the loudest voices against the Covid Pass - the ones who dare to speak publicly - are people who explicitly conflate opposition to vaccine mandates with anti-LGBT views. So the few protests which have occurred against the Covid Pass have devolved into a battle over gay rights. Which - again - drives away mainstream people who would otherwise join in opposition to the Covid Pass.
As an example of the absurdity of the situation, the only major politician against most Covid restrictions, the founder of the opposition party Labor (pictured), is such a nut that he and his children started selling mineral water that he claims gives you immunity against the virus.
The government and media seize on this to characterize all opposition to Covid restrictions as loonybin cases like him. Or crazed far-right anti-LGBT activists. Or anti-Semites. Etc. And that successfully stigmatizes opposition even further so mainstream people think there is no basis for principled opposition to vaccine mandates.
The result is a wedge that has cleaved society in two: the Good and the Bad. Covid policy in our country has become a signal that you're Good and do not belong to the inferior group of mystical, crazed people. (...)
Opposition to the Covid Pass isn't treated here as a political or philosophical view which people can disagree about. Instead, it's considered to be an opinion so dangerous that it must be banned.
It's sad to me that we've reached that situation here in Lithuania, of all places. Under the Soviet occupation from 1944 to 1990, political dissent was suppressed, news was censored, and neighbors spied on neighbors (...).
Yet now, we've returned to a regime of censorship. It's encouraged by the government, but - at least so far - it's not directly enforced by them. Instead, the main force is a social movement that oppresses dissent so much that people censor themselves.
The combined effects of the social environment, media, and groupthink are powerful. In the spring of last year, it made adults terrified of getting Covid. In the winter of last year, it whipped many people into being deeply scared for their children to get Covid.
But 18 months into this crisis, people now are more afraid of the social stigma than of the virus itself. Outright bans are often unnecessary because most normal, not-wacky people who oppose the policies censor themselves.
Othering: Public shaming and death wishes
Many people go even further, delivering effusive praise for the Covid Pass regime and hatred of anyone opposed.
On Facebook, many Lithuanians I see have posted a sticker on their profile - "Educated. Vaccinated." - together with long posts raging: "we would be finished with this pandemic if only the stupid anti-vaxxers would either get vaccinated or die!".
There's no opposition to these messages. Most people just push 'like' and cheer on the death wishes. Anyone opposed presumably says nothing out of fear of the mob. That's certainly what I do.
At my work, we had to indicate whether we have the Opportunity Pass. The next day, a list was posted publicly of everyone's Pass status. Turns out I'm the only one in my area who doesn't have the Pass. The only reason to post that list was to shame me.
The public shaming worked. Most colleagues avoided me afterwards.
But one colleague pulled me aside. Whispering in my ear (literally), she told me that she thinks the Opportunity Pass is a crazy violation of human rights and despises the fact that she was forced to vaccinate against her will, particularly because she plans to have another child soon. But she feels that she doesn't dare oppose it, because she already has one child, is scared for her job, and needs to shop and otherwise continue life.
We've re-entered into a world where you have to whisper to talk about your opposition to government policies. Where you have to scan your documents to eat in a restaurant. Where you're suspended from work without pay for non-compliance. And where fear compels you to undergo medical treatments you don't want. (...)
Restrictions: what do they mean in practice?
(...) Several days ago, my family was turned away from a medical facility because we did not have the Covid Pass. The medical facility offered us the option to come back if we returned with a negative PCR test. In a separate incident a few days later, we went to the dental office we've attended for years for an appointment for one of my children, but we were asked to leave when the staff discovered that I don't have the Opportunity Pass. (...)
Why don't we want the Pass?
My wife and I are not opposed to Covid vaccinations. Vaccination can be beneficial for many people. It's a personal medical decision which should be made by each individual in consultation with their doctor.
What we strongly oppose are vaccine mandates. The government should not force us to undergo a medical treatment against our will. Our rights as citizens should not be restricted because we do not undergo this medical treatment.
Medical exemptions: only allergies
We oppose the Opportunity Pass out of principle. We believe that Covid-vaccine mandates are wrong in all circumstances.
But in our own case, we have a further issue.
My wife has a long-term progressive disease. Based on data from both the vaccine trials and countries which publish real-world side-effect statistics, we are worried that the vaccine could trigger serious side effects in the short-term, or worsen her condition in the long-term.
Additionally, she's pregnant with our third child.
We discussed our concerns with the specialist doctor who has treated her for years. The doctor researched the topic and reached the opinion that she is at increased risk of severe adverse effects due to her condition. We presented to the authorities a note written by the doctor detailing my wife's situation and the conclusion that vaccination is therefore not worth the risk for her.
Our request was rejected. My wife will not receive an exemption from the Opportunity Pass restrictions. We received no explanation. As far as we know, there is no appeal.
We don't know what happened in her case. But in general, our government is opposed to medical exemptions. The authorities have announced that they only allow medical exemptions in cases where a certified allergist doctor finds, through extensive documented testing, that a person is severely allergic to the substance within the vaccine (anaphylactic reactions). In an interview, an official of the Ministry of Health stated that such an allergy is the only allowable exemption and the Ministry dislikes "the tendency to use medical excuses as a justification to not vaccinate".
In the case of my wife and myself, we work in different industries and have different occupations. But both our employers have separately created the same policy. People without the Opportunity Pass won't actually be fired, because that would create many legal issues, obligations, and unemployment benefits. Instead, employees are suspended without pay.
In our case, both my wife and I were suspended from our jobs without pay on September 13. We are allowed to return when we comply with the mandate to present a valid Covid Pass.
The rules must be enforced by all private and public entities which are affected, e.g. restaurants, stores, buildings, medical facilities, etc. Government inspectors will check to ensure compliance. Citizens may also report any business which does not comply. Any business which does not properly enforce the Opportunity Pass is fined. (...)
Restaurants, cafes, bars
Restaurants and bars also strictly enforce the Opportunity Pass. A small cafe doesn't have the manpower of a huge business to put guards at the door to stop you from entering. But staff are strict in asking for your documents before you order. For example, I've confirmed that every restaurant and cafe in my area requires the Opportunity Pass and refuses service to non-Pass holders.
Most enforcement is done by private businesses, but government inspectors also conduct spot checks. For example, a local restaurant owner told me that inspectors unexpectedly entered his place last week. Using a scanning app, the inspectors went from person to person to verify that everyone in the restaurant - customers and staff - had a valid Opportunity Pass and matching ID. Fortunately for the restaurant owner, he's strict about barring non-Pass holders, so the inspectors found that every person did indeed have a valid Opportunity Pass. If anyone didn't, the owner would have been fined.
(The owner told me this story when we bumped into each other on the street. We're friendly with each other, but I'm no longer allowed to enter his restaurant to chat, so we could only speak standing outside.) (...)
A word of warning to Europe
If the Covid Pass is allowed to continue, the problems will be fixed, bureaucracy will grow and become entrenched, and this regime will be normalized and accepted.
And then the case of Lithuania will be heralded by other countries as a successful example of a nation where the Covid Pass is required to have "the opportunity to participate in society".
And where those who do not have a Covid Pass are banned from society.
I'm a very ordinary man. I've never cared about politics. I've never been to a protest in my life. My favorite activity is go to the forest and hunt for wild mushrooms with my wife and children (the chanterelles are heavenly this year!).
In short, I'm not political and I'm not an activist. But I am moral. And what is happening is morally wrong. Deeply, deeply wrong.
That's why I want to stop it - for my country and for every other country. Lithuania is the harbinger of the future facing every nation if we continue down the path of a Covid Pass regime. (...)
Comments, questions, ideas, corrections? Feel free to email me.
I read every message. I have more time now that I'm suspended from work.
Lastly, many people have written to offer money. It's very kind, and I'm humbled by the goodness and generosity in these messages. But I don't want money or recognition. All I want is to get the message out. I'm not social media savvy. I have zero platform. I'm just an ordinary man trapped in a Kafkaesque world of mind-numbing absurdity. So I'd be deeply grateful for any help you can give to draw attention to this message.
Een overzicht van de beperkingen