COVID Mandates: Rights of Individuals versus the Collective

Updated: May 4

Victor Luca, 2-Mar-22

Unpublished



New Zealand is more a social democracy than a liberal one in the sense that the rights of the collective (the common good) have somewhat higher priority than the rights of the individual.


We do care about individual rights, and we protect them, but only inasmuch as individual rights do not trample on the common good. We are a democracy because we elect our leaders; ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people’.


The fact that we are a Social Democracy is probably a major reason why many of us choose to live in this country. In our country we give people a lot of space to live their lives and do their own thing, but within limits.


The anti-mandate mob basically say that mandates are an unacceptable burden on the individual rights of those who choose not to be vaccinated and so mandates must be abolished immediately.


The oft quoted Bill of Rights Act 1990 (BoR) states that individual freedoms are subject to ‘reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society’.


Does this mean that we have the freedom to go out and shoot someone on 5th Avenue just because we feel like it? No, we do not! Murder is a crime because the assailant’s freedoms are not more important than the victims. It is interesting to note that the BoR gives us the ‘Right not to be deprived of life’.


Are we allowed to travel on our roads at whatever speed we like? No, because excessive speed poses a greater risk to both the driver and to other innocent people. Do we allow just any Tom, Dick and Harry to practice medicine? No, we do not, because that would be dangerous to the public health. In our efforts to protect society from individual freedoms we impose limits. I could go on and on and on.


And now for the science or maybe even the common sense.


We have been experiencing a pandemic of serious proportions. Experts have been warning for decades to be alert and to be prepared. Somewhere between 6 and 18 million global citizens have so far died depending on how you measure. COVID-19 is a relatively contagious and lethal disease but could have been much more so had we not taken action.


NZ has so far experienced a paltry 10.9 deaths/million of population. This is close to one of the lowest death counts in the developed world. For comparison, countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom and regions such as Europe have experienced 2,845, 2,366 and 2,277 deaths/million of population respectively and these deaths continue to increase. We, on the other hand, have experienced 210x less death than the European average.


If our performance had been like that of the European average we would expect to have seen 11,613 dead New Zealanders, or 84 COVID deaths in our district thus far. I ask if that is an acceptable human toll? Is 11,613 dead New Zealanders an acceptable price for unrestrained individual freedom? I for one, think not. Let us not forget also that in regards to this pandemic uncertainty abounds and things could easily have got worse before they got better. Let us also not forget that this ‘aint over till the fat lady sings’. As long as this virus continues to circulate freely, there is a finite risk of the evolution of a more contagious and lethal variant. We must stop the circulation of the virus so that it cannot continue to evolve unrestrained, and we must use the tools we are lucky to have.


Whilst I criticize the New Zealand government I helped elect for the many blunders they have made (e.g. in housing), and although I criticize many aspects of Government’s handling of the pandemic, by and large I give them a very high grade. Let’s not forget that we have the luck of being a remote island. Moreover, it would appear that globally we have been dealt a lucky hand in that the more contagious Omicron variant appears to be about 25% less lethal than Delta. It could easily have been the other way around.


Let us now assert that vaccines have very favorable risk-to-benefit profiles and that they are very effective in preventing serious illness, hospitalization and death NOT infection. We know that if you are vaccinated you are roughly 44x less likely to die of COVID-19 than if you are not vaccinated. Period! Vaccines are therefore a necessary tool in fighting this serious public health emergency and to minimize the death toll and the pain and suffering in our community.


There is also solid scientific evidence out there to support the assertion that a vaccinated individual is substantially less contagious than an unvaccinated individual.


The vaccinated shed less virus for less time. That being so, as I pointed out in a previous piece in which I compared vaccination with smoking, a vaccinated person poses a reduced risk to others, and especially the frail and the vulnerable. Therefore, to protect society as a whole means that as many people as possible be vaccinated.


Thus, imposing vaccination mandates would seem to be a legitimate governmental choice since the aim is to protect society as a whole and this is clearly supported by the scientific evidence.


It is not totally surprising therefore, that after reviewing the evidence presented by both vaccine opponents and the government, the High Court of NZ has ruled in three cases that the government policy on mandates is justified. It just makes sense and it is consistent with the science.


We are not a selfish society that doesn’t give a damn about what our individual actions can do to others. For that I am truly grateful.


No one likes mandates in a free democratic society. Of course, once the emergency is over, the mandates will be lifted.



References


Andrew Geddis, A. End New Zealand’s Covid mandates too quickly and the mistake could be measured in funerals. The Guardian, 25-Feb-22.

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