Those who refuse to get jabbed because they’ve swallowed lunatic conspiracy theories from the internet, or simply can’t be bothered, should be presented with a bill if they need hospitalisation.
Knowing that they would be held personally liable for the tens of thousands of pounds care costs – and pursued through the courts for it if necessary when they leave hospital – would, at a stroke, solve one of the central factors that is driving case numbers up on a daily basis.
It is the unvaccinated who are at the heart of the current strain being put on the NHS. In London, which is the epicentre of the Omicron crisis, a third of the population have failed to get either their first or second jabs, let alone the booster.
The city’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, who declared a major incident in the capital at the weekend because of the pressure its hospitals are under, pointed out that most of their patients are unvaccinated.
And only two weeks ago, figures from the NHS showed that three-quarters of the Covid patients in intensive care across the country had not been jabbed.
Our country has been struggling against Covid for nigh on two years now, and it’s time to get tough with the irresponsible, the idiotic and the plain lazy who are clogging up hospitals, putting staff under colossal stress and contributing to the ever-growing backlog of patients whose treatment is being delayed.
In print and on the airwaves, doctors and nurses have written and spoken of their frustration at the number of seriously-ill patients they are treating who most likely would not have ended up in hospital at all if only they had been vaccinated.
Some are paying with their lives for failing to do so, which is a tragedy, but the moment has come to take a much harder line with those yet to fall ill who are undermining the national effort to achieve herd immunity against Covid. That means hitting them in their pockets – and it is an approach already being demonstrated to work.
Singapore, which has one of the world’s most successful records in tackling Covid, is charging the unvaccinated for their treatment if they end up in hospital and the consequence is that take-up of jabs is one of the highest anywhere.
We’re not talking here about those who, for medical reasons, cannot have a vaccine, or for whom it is less effective because of underlying illness.
It’s about targeting millions of people who refuse to do their bit for the greater good. And if by letting them know a hospital bill could come their way saves lives as well, then so much the better.
The fact is for vast numbers of people, a year of persuasion that vaccination is in their own interests as well as society’s has not worked.
Their only immunity is to reason. Politicians cannot talk them into getting jabbed, and neither can medical or scientific figures, however eminent.
A different approach is needed. It amounts to a form of coercion to threaten people with having to pay if they fall ill, but so be it.
Bleating about people’s civil liberties in choosing not to have the jab sounds increasingly irrelevant the longer this pandemic goes on and the more damage it wreaks to the country’s economic, physical and mental health.
The overriding civil liberty is surely for us all to be able to get on with our lives, go to work, earn a living, get together with those we love and enjoy our leisure time.
The unvaccinated are holding us back from that, and the public is getting sick of them. Earlier this month, a survey found 59 per cent of people believed those who have not been jabbed should be barred from pubs, cinemas and restaurants.
France drove up sluggish vaccination rates by restricting what those without the jab could do, and we should not be shy of doing likewise – or going farther.
The Government has the means to restrict the unvaccinated, via Covid passports, and despite the reservations of a cohort of Conservative MPs who voted against them, making life difficult for refuseniks would enjoy widespread public support.
We should be thinking of those who will not get jabbed in the same terms as persistent drink-drivers – a menace to themselves and those around them, who are deserving not of consideration but regarded as social outcasts.
And like drink-drivers, they should know there will be consequences for their actions.
Our precious NHS and the people within it who work so hard for the sake of others are being put under needless pressure by a hard-core of the selfish and stupid. It is time to let them know they will have to pay for their actions – and not only with their health.
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