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The Belfast Telegraph has published a longer version of my letter on travelling on foreign holidays...

In case the image above doesn't render properly, the following is the text of my email:

The debate around whether we should go on our foreign holidays is at risk of becoming part of the left/right divide in our society.

The right are arguing for travel on the grounds of freedom of choice, personal responsibility, mental health, and the need for the economy to re-start. The left are arguing on the grounds of the precautionary principle, community responsibilities, and holding out the hope of eliminating the virus in Ireland completely.

Older people, who might otherwise be in the right wing camp are siding with the left on this occasion. Public sector workers, whose livelihoods are less at risk, also tend to the more left wing view. The argument is couched in terms individualism versus collectivism, personal freedom against social responsibility, full economic recovery versus care for the elderly and public health.

But it's also about how you perceive risk.

Of course the chances are that an individual family going on their holidays abroad, observing all the precautions, will not contract or spread the virus. But how many will do so in the alcoholic haze that often accompanies a sunshine holiday?

If many thousands of people flock to their sunshine holiday destinations as usual, it only takes a 1% chance of them contracting the disease for hundreds of new infections to be imported into N. Ireland.

This isn't about individuals acting responsibly, but about the cumulative effects of mass changes in social behaviour. The risk of infection increases exponentially the larger the crowd. The statistics of large numbers dictate that even small risks can have significant consequences at a societal level.

How do you take personal responsibility for infecting others after the event? And since when has the mental health of people become dependent on a foreign holiday? Those who are most concerned about restarting the Irish economy should be the first to advocate for a holiday at home.

We may be on the cusp of eliminating the virus in Ireland completely. Yesterday, despite an increasing proportion of new infections caused by foreign travel, we only had 9 new infections N.Ireland (+4 in the Republic) and no new deaths north or south. Let's finish the job of eliminating the virus here and then all discussion of freedoms within Ireland will become moot.

The costs to our travel and tourism industry are tiny compared to the ongoing cost of managing the pandemic. Each Covid-19 test alone costs £200 to administer. How many would travel abroad if taking and paying for a test became compulsory on their return? Surely it is their personal responsibility to pay for the costs they incur?

Kind regards,

Frank Schnittger,

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jul 13th, 2020 at 09:21:06 AM EST

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