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Whanganui Midweek - 2021-10-13

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Mixed messages confusing

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Let’s vaccinate NZ by Xmas

Mixed messages are not helping anyone in this Covid-19 pandemic. This is a time when we all need to be on the same page, sensitivities need to be shelved and people pull together for the common good. Instead, we persist with the liberal ideal of individual liberty over-riding the needs of the vulnerable and the hope of getting through this mess with our society more or less intact. So it does not help when the Government website to do with Covid-19 requirements says the following: “Some people who have a disability or health condition may not be able to wear a face covering safely or comfortably, and so are not required to wear one. These people can get an exemption card but are not required to carry it or show it. “Businesses and services do not need to stop people without face coverings from entering their premises or boarding their transport service, because some people will be exempt from wearing a face covering. “Businesses may wish to require face coverings at their premise. They need to take care when doing so, to ensure they do not discriminate against people with disabilities that prevent them from wearing a face mask.” This is where we get a little too careful and unwilling to offend, and staff and customers’ safety becomes secondary to the possibility of someone’s personal embarrassment. Here’s the dilemma: you can apply for a mask exemption, and get it approved, and be issued with an exemption certificate or card, but not be required to show it. So why apply at all? If you are not particularly honest and if you don’t have to prove you have an exemption, why bother applying for one? After all, no-one’s allowed to question it because, apparently, that amounts to discrimination. And yet the person with the exemption has already admitted to some bureaucrat, during the application process, that they have a condition that precludes them from wearing a face mask. Was that application inviting discrimination or is that bureaucrat exempt from feeling or expressing discrimination towards others? Does he or she not have an opinion, make a judgment, feel something? Is he or she the only person dealing with the exemption application? Probably not, so an opinion on the matter has already been formed by more than one feeling, judgmental, normal person. Also on that website is this: “If people refuse to wear a face covering, businesses are not required to take any further action to make them. You should ensure your workers have adequate support, instruction and information, including knowing what to do if things escalate.” That puts a lot of onus on the workplace and its staff, and if that place admits the public to its premises, and members of the public refuse to comply with Covid-19 conditions, as happens frequently, who has to train the staff and management in behavioural de-escalation procedures? As it is, retailers and their untrained staff have to comply with the regulations but aren’t allowed to insist that members of the public do the same. That still doesn’t stop customers getting angry, abusive and physically intimidating. A checkout operator at a local supermarket says they have been spat upon by people who refuse to comply. Not because they’ve been told to do something they don’t want to do — heaven forbid anyone should impinge on their individual freedom — but because they’re angry in general and need a stationary target. Supermarket staff are now so accustomed to personal attacks that not many react to it, meaning people can indulge in such cowardly behaviour and suffer few consequences, if any. Where is the support for all the people who are doing the right thing? Why are the rules different for everyone and who is supposed to know what rules apply to whom? Masks are mandatory ... unless you have an exemption, which you are not required to prove, therefore masks are not mandatory, they are optional. Social distancing is encouraged, but not compulsory, because if you object vehemently to being told to keep your distance, who is trained to deal with the situation? Retailers can’t afford to hire security staff to take charge of abusive customers, so who protects them? In a pandemic, there should be fixed rules in place to protect everyone from possible infection. This is the Delta variant with a high rate of contagion and serious symptoms. The common good is a real thing and forms the basis of most of our laws. For individual sensitivities and civil liberties to supersede the common good, especially in a time like this, says selfishness, or the perceived need of the sensitive individual, is far more important and acceptable than the need for public safety. If someone has a mask exemption they should be required to show it, so the people they are dealing with understand and social-distance accordingly. That’s only fair to all those who comply with the “rules”. It will also prevent a lot of ill feeling. Either we are that famous team of five million looking out for each other, or we are not a team, just five million people looking out for themselves. What is it going to be?

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