【明報專訊】The COVID-19 virus continues to wreak havoc on the world in its mutant forms. Many countries have seen a rebound of cases. China is one of the most successful countries in controlling the pandemic, and is steadily advancing its vaccination programme. As it has already administered 1.4 billion doses, it is believed that a vaccination rate of 70% or 80% can soon be reached.
COVID-19 variants such as the Delta variant are highly transmissible, and this is the main reason why cases have rebounded so rapidly in different countries. China is struggling to prevent imported cases. The recent situation in Guangdong has brought uneasiness to the Pearl River Delta area, with the number of medium- and high-risk areas rising to more than ten at one point. In those regions that were under lockdown, economic activities were brought to a halt, and there were many restrictions on citizens' movements. In many cities, all citizens are required to get tested twice. The social cost of pandemic restrictions is very high.
Vaccination is the fastest, least risky, and most painless way for lives to return to normal. Different countries are doing everything possible to promote vaccination. In many countries with sufficient vaccine supplies, the vaccination rates are approaching or have already reached 50%. But these rates have stagnated after reaching a certain level and have encountered difficulties in going further. After all, COVID-19 is a new matter, and vaccines have been developed in a rush without the established procedure of repeated trials being followed. They were authorised for emergency use. Many people are sceptical about the effectiveness of vaccines. Elderly people with chronic diseases, in particular, are concerned about the side effects of vaccines. Some groups of people refuse to get vaccinated because of trust issues with the government or political allegiances.
The rebound of COVID-19 cases has caused many people who were originally doubtful about vaccines to change their attitudes. Germany, France, and the US were the countries with the largest proportions of people rejecting vaccination. After the emergence of the Delta variant, the rejection rates have dropped. Among those who have changed their minds to get vaccinated, some have done so after weighing up the two risks, i.e. the risk of allergic reactions to vaccines and the risk of getting infected with the COVID-19 virus. For those who are dead set against vaccines, no incentive measures will be effective. French President Emmanuel Macron announced last week that the government would enact laws to require people to get vaccinated in order to use public transportation, enter cinemas, and go to restaurants. More than 100,000 people took part in demonstrations against the move over the weekend.
The pandemic has brought about inestimable damage. If the pandemic cannot be controlled, the damage will be immeasurable. If public venues cannot open their doors to welcome customers or serve the public, a social cost will be incurred. It is not just the government that should foot the bill — citizens have their responsibilities too. That is why they are required to wear a mask and adhere to all kinds of pandemic restrictions. Getting vaccinated is a social responsibility of citizens.
Preventing and controlling the pandemic comes with national efforts. Every citizen has to play their part. However, by introducing mandatory measures, the government will only make people doubtful about them. A government should assume greater responsibility in persuading its people to actively comply with anti-pandemic measures. As the fight against the pandemic has become a normalised affair, the key lies with strengthening publicity campaigns and education.
明報│社評 ̷̷ 2021.07.19 ̷
stagnate : to stop developing or making progress
sceptical : having doubts that a claim or statement is true or that sth will happen
dead set against sth : completely opposed to sth