Opening now is not fair on young people

Alex Garner argues that our ‘freedom day’ should be postponed until all adults in Guernsey have had the chance to get double-vaccinated

Alex Garner (29701751)
Alex Garner (29701751)

I AM obliged to prefix anything Covid-19-related by stating my credentials: I have my vaccine certificate; I am remotely organising a UK-based wedding; and I haven’t seen several family members for well over a year (including two one-year-old nieces I am yet to meet in person). I am not an epidemiologist, nor have I seen all the data used by the CCA, but I am desperate to be able to freely travel again.

It is also important to reemphasise that Guernsey’s pandemic management has been world-leading. It is made all the more impressive by our proximity to the UK, the government of which has been putting on a ‘how not to deal with a public health crisis’ masterclass.

The UK’s tragic death toll would surely have been lessened had they taken a page out of Guernsey’s playbook and quickly shut borders, installed a functioning track-and-trace system and provided clear and consistent public information throughout.

That said, now is the time for Guernsey to follow the UK government’s actions in postponing its so-called ‘freedom day’. In the face of rapidly rising infections, the Tories are (and this isn’t easy for me to say) absolutely right to delay fully opening up. The CCA should follow suit here. I know this won’t be popular, but Category 2 measures should remain in place, with unvaccinated returning locals (e.g. students) getting their testing on arrival for free, until all adults have had the opportunity to get their second dose, likely in early August. There is no reason to give the Common Travel Area special treatment either, with UK daily infection figures as high as anywhere.

The data indicates that vaccinations have broken the chain of causation between Covid infection and hospitalisation. Although infection rates are soaring, according to Public Health England’s figures, two doses of the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines offer effectiveness against hospital admission with the Delta variant of 96% and 92% respectively. The stats also show that, for the first time, under-65s are being hospitalised in greater numbers than over-65s.

On the flipside, four weeks after one jab, protection against symptomatic disease is only 36% and 30% effective. We know that long-term symptoms persist in 10-20% of non-hospitalised Covid-19 positive young adults and that the impact and scale of ‘Long Covid’ is still being realised. Transmission between children is also high. Covid-19 is now a young person’s problem.

The implementation of the ‘blue channel’ for the double-vaccinated completely undermines the #GuernseyTogether philosophy that has allowed on-island normality for so long. In so willingly complying with lockdown, young people sacrificed their freedom and huge chunks of their youth – despite the effects of catching Covid-19 being far less severe for that demographic – to save the lives of older and more vulnerable people. It’s now time for that sacrifice to be repaid. The trade-off for the rightful prioritisation of older people in receiving the vaccine first is that this doesn’t confer a VIP status. Restriction-free travel will see the return of community seeding which young people (being the bulk of the unvaccinated 40%), through no fault of their own, are not protected against. It also sends young people to the end of another queue, this time for off-island travel. The CCA claims that there is no ‘intent’ to create an age-based divide but this policy undoubtedly does. It could, understandably, lead the younger electorate to question if they are politically expendable to decision-makers.

Yes, sometimes life is unfair. But if the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that the best way to deal with collective challenges is by sharing the burden equitably between the people.

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