Why would you get ill on purpose? If you ask the self-infectors, you will be offered various evasions: deliberately spreading Covid is a crime. However, the simple answer is a perverse mechanism introduced by vaccine passports. Passports are given to those: i) who have been vaccinated; and to ii) those who have had Covid. If you can register a hit with a certified test, you avoid government passport restrictions for six months.
In September 2021 this did not matter so much. Only restaurants and some meetings were off-limits to those without vaccinations. Even in these cases it was possible to get a temporary ‘passport’ with a test. Then the Government extended its writ across different areas of the economy, not least the teaching professions and healthcare. Next, the simple loophole of a test was threaded tighter. Then rules on planes were extended to buses and trains… The screw has slowly been turned.
The Government presented in early January 2022 a new raft of laws to hem the unvaccinated in still further. The unvaccinated will no longer, from February, be able to go in a shop save for certain ‘essentials’ without a passport. Hairdressers and beauty salons, banks and post offices have also been decreed off-limits. The above rules applied to all residents older than twelve. The unvaccinated over fifty were liable, meanwhile, to ill-defined spot fines.
But this simple legal sketch does not do justice to Italy, a place that I’ve been happy to call home for twenty years. In Italy there are laws that are taken seriously and there are laws, even new laws, that are just there to be navigated and winked at. The art of living in Italy, so bewildering to outsiders, is to understand which law is important at a given moment.
In late January 2022, Covid laws are very much in the ascendancy. The Government and most Italians have lost all patience with the unvaccinated. These laws then are being applied with a certain fetishist pleasure by the authorities and their citizen police: any ‘passport’ laws depend on the goodwill of the population generally to be enforced.
I have heard in the last month, for the first time, Italians threaten the unvaccinated: ‘vi ammazzo tutti’ (I’ll kill the lot of you). I have witnessed pressure being put on the parents of unvaccinated children in the popular tribunals of the digital age, WhatsApp class groups. I have seen the offensive messages that an unvaccinated 13-year-old girl received from a classmate on her phone.
The unvaccinated glimpsed this Christmas a window of opportunity. There were new laws coming, rising citizen anger and the mildest version of Covid yet seen. The despised began, then, to arrange meetings with the sick. One infected woman told me that her convalescent chamber had been like ‘Mecca’ with pilgrims coming from afar. The water bottle was shared there between those of a common faith. The religious connotations being picked up on both sides of the Covid divide are fascinating.
In the eyes of the law, what these self-infectors are doing in their ‘upper room’ is wrong. But they could, I think, reasonably argue that it was the law that put them in this situation in the first place. Losing your job, seeing your kids picked on, being shunned by your neighbours is not good for social solidarity. As one unvaccinated man said to me, “it is their law now”. Cavour groans in his grave.
The hope for self-infectors is to get through the next season where Covid legislation will start to fall away. Then, if that does not happen, Novavax, a Covid vaccine that is not based on mRNA technology, should be an alternative, at least, for the more moderate no-vaxxers. I wouldn’t be confident about any such happy ends, though.
The unvaccinated underclass will be one of the scars of the Covid biennio, in Italy: thank two-score head-banging Tory Spartans that the U.K. didn’t, too, go down this self-defeating route. Public ire against the unvaccinated will not last beyond the summer because Covid is, please God, all but over. But why should the unvaccinated forgive and forget?
Many already distrusted authority and to make a case for civic duty would be insulting after their experiences. The absurd (ER: ha!) conspiracy theories that some of the unvaccinated peddled have been, to their minds, validated: one no-vaxxer I know now refuses to let me enter her house with my phone as ‘they’ may be listening. Some will turn away from society. Some will turn to violence. A brave and an energetic part of Italian culture has come loose.
And for what? It is true that the unvaccinated are over-represented in Covid wards. (ER: Not according to what we’ve published.) But then so are the obese. Yet daily jogs or weigh ins before getting on trains were never suggested there. Mandatory vaccines might have been a sensible policy in the case of, say, the Black Death (with one in two or one in three of the infected dying). But with Covid, with its death rate of perhaps one in 400, it is simply absurd. (ER: official statistics in several countries are known to have been played around with. See here, here and here.)
All the anger and the laws, in the case of Italy, meant that perhaps 5% to 10% more adults were vaccinated, most of whom were not seriously at risk, in any case. The price? The alienation of around five million Italians. This would be serious in Denmark or the Netherlands. In a nation like Italy where a sense of national belonging is fragile, it is catastrophic.
The writer who wished to remain anonymous wrote this while recovering from COVID. Not that it is any of your business, but he is vaccinated.
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