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EDITORIAL: Coronavirus has exposed an awkward divide in Western societies along arch-conservative and liberal lines as reflected in an increasingly aggressive pushback against Covid-19 vaccination. Last Wednesday, German police foiled a plot by anti-vaccination activists to murder the state premier of Saxony in eastern Germany. Saxony, a stronghold of the far-right Alternative for Germany party, has one of the country’s highest levels of Covid-19 infections, which is not surprising since it also has the lowest vaccination rate.

The plot to kill the state premier is the latest in a series of incidents of a growing resistance by many Germans to restrictions on the unvaccinated people, and plans to make vaccinations compulsory for the general population.

Things are not very different in other Western countries. A few days ago in Britain, prime minister Boris Johnson faced the biggest revolt in his Conservative Party since he became prime minister when following the emergence of the highly contagious Omicron variant of coronavirus he sought parliament’s approval of measures requiring mandatory Covid vaccination passes showing a recent negative test for full vaccination for entry into many large public places, and compulsory facemasks in most indoor settings.

As many as 99 Conservative MPs voted against the move though it was passed by a majority 243 votes, thanks to Labour Party’s support. In the US, which has the world’s highest rate of Covid-19 victims — as many as 804,758 people had lost their lives while there were 50,739,052 confirmed cases of the fatal disease so far — vaccination resistance still persists. Several European countries have seen massive anti-vaccination protests.

One would imagine that Western societies, being better educated and hence better informed about the danger inherent in contracting Covid-19, would be readily prepared to get protective vaccination jabs, but the resistance levels remain high. Like Britain where such a large number of Tory MPs went against their party line, indicating a serious divide in their society; in the US, just 58 percent of Republicans have been vaccinated as against 90 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of Independents.

Normally, the shock of a major calamity like a natural disaster or a pandemic tends to elicit a unified public response. In the present instance, Covid-19 has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and is still on the rampage with a virulent Delta variant and an extremely infectious Omicron.

Vaccination campaigns did gain some traction after the spread of Delta variant brought a surge in hospitalisation rate. But as the vote in the British parliament, protest demonstrations in several EU countries, and now the assassination plot in Saxony show, illiberal attitudes remain pretty strong in Western societies.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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