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  • Writer's picturepeter grose

Right jab

Rant alert.

Sorry, folks, but I'm well sick of people trying not to sound smug while asking me how things are in France Covid-19-wise. The implication is that we are suffering grievously here while things are MUCH better where they come from. Poor old you is the unstated message. Well here are the facts for France, the UK, the US and Australia.

France (population 67 million) has so far administered 10,742,886 second jabs, which means that some 16% of the population is fully immunised (including me, by the way). All free. Schools have been back since 3 May. Outdoor drinking and dining has been permitted since 19 May. The old curfew at 7:00 pm was extended to 9:00 pm on 19 May. It will roll back to 11:00 pm on 9 June and indoor eating and drinking will again be okay. On 30 June all restrictions will be lifted. There are no current restrictions on travel within France, and French residents may travel to the 26 other EU countries with less than onerous difficulty.

The United Kingdom (population also 67 million) is a stronger performer with vaccinations. Some 36.8% of the population has received a full serve of jabs. However there are restrictions on internal movement within England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and more restrictions on moving from one part of the "United" Kingdom to another. International travellers must quarantine for 10 days after arrival. Pubs and restaurants are open. However the number of Covid-19 victims is rising again, and new strains of Covid-19 threaten everything so far achieved.

The United States (population 333 million) has done even better with vaccinations. Some 134 million, or 40.7% of the population, are now fully vaccinated. Restrictions vary from state to state, and even from city to city, at the whim of the local governor or mayor. So it is impossible to summarise them. Official advice is to find out what to expect at your destination before you leave home. However there ARE some restrictions on internal movement, and if you want to get past the customs and immigration counter at the airport you had better be able to produce vaccination certificates and a recent negative test, and then you'll probably have to quarantine. So it's all a bit tricky.

My native Australia (population 26 million) is a worry. They currently congratulate themselves on the small number of cases they are experiencing. But they have achieved this by isolating themselves from the rest of the world, or "pulling up the drawbridge". This works well now, but there will be some ugly choices within the next 12 months. It is pretty obvious from the experience of the US, UK and France that the only effective way around Covid-19 is by getting the population immunised, and here Australia's performance is an international disgrace. To date only 419,319 Australians have received a full course of jabs, or 1.9% of the population. Tourism is one of Australia's most important industries, accounting for a decent portion of its GDP and employing 580,000 people. Australia opens its doors to some 8 million international travellers each year. So what will happen if those 580,000 voters demand that the doors re-open so they can get back to work, and to hell with vaccination? Answer: a spike in Covid-19 cases. And that will be true until Australia catches up with the rest of the world's vaccination programme. So Australia may look good now, but watch this space!

And meanwhile, spare me smug questions about how are things down your way? France is no world leader in the fight against Covid-19, but it is far from the worst performer. My life has hardly been affected by Covid-19 restrictions. I've badly missed seeing my two daughters, who both live in the UK. And I've missed regular trips to Paris, and my annual trip to Australia. But, wait for this ...

The Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is talking about no international travel either inbound or outbound for Australia and Australians until mid-2022. I've now put off five trips to the UK to see my daughters, and two trips to Australia. I'd rather stay here than quarantine there. There are some 15,000 Australian citizens trapped overseas for more than a year because the quarantine hotels in Australia can't fit them in, and the rare airline flights don't have seats for them anyway.

So where does all this lead? As an Australian passport holder, I'm inclined to say thanks-but-no-thanks to it all. It's currently 23˚C here, the sun is shining,, it's a five-minute walk to a long sandy beach, and it's time for a little glass of something before lunch. What's not to like?

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