From Masks, Parties and Isolation to Vaccines: Compliance, Coercion, Enforcement, Screw Ups + Sabotage

In a world of conspiracy theories, complacency and ‘Coronavirus fatigue’, will people simply follow guidelines because you ask them, or do you need to coerce or even enforce compliance?

Various authorities have also been sending signals, or even creating rules, that discourage compliance. Sometimes this is deliberate sabotage from outside, but more often the sabotage or screw-ups are internal. Of specific interest at this time are the screw-ups: states creating potential headaches for themselves whilst trying to enforce compliance. At the time of writing, this applies most specifically to testing, isolation and vaccines.

* includes actual screw-ups

Sabotage

Sabotage tends to have the effect of creating resistance to compliance with all measures to limit the spread of the vaccine. There is evidence that some states, not naming Russia specifically, have created propaganda intentionally, whilst in other countries have effectively ‘shot themselves in the foot’, and again, the blame is not limited to specific countries such as the USA or those outside the US who support views originating from the US.

Masks

Why?

The main impact is that asymptomatic/pre-symptomatic people who are mask wearers will infect less people, thus reducing spread. Mask wearing can also reduce the risk of the wearer becoming infected, which is great for the wearer, and may mean one less case per mask, the blocking of further spread can result if a large number of reduced cases per mask.

Compliance.

Wearing a mask reduces the chances of the spreader becoming infected, and for those who feel invulnerable there is the alternative incentive of providing protection for the more vulnerable.

Many people choose to wear masks even when not a requirement, and where spread is at low levels, voluntary mask wearing is adequate. When mask wearing is required, the main threat from those who do not comply is they may also indulge in behaviour resulting in an increased risk of them being a ‘spreader’.

Coercion.

Simply advising that people should wear masks can often be sufficient coercion.

Enforcement.

It is possible to enforce mask wearing. Same rules for everyone. A requirement to wear masks can be enforceable by law. The only potential problems that arise are where could be a question as to availability of masks, and requirements for children or those with disabilities to wear masks.

Screw Ups.

The politicising of mask wearing has added complications, but this is more a case of sabotage than a screw-up as these messages are not attempts to encourage mask wearing that backfired.

Parties & Gatherings.

Why?

Gatherings, particularly indoor gatherings, are one of the common causes of clusters that drive outbreaks. Parties tend to get the attention, and while there have been cases and even deaths as a result of parties, family gatherings are credited with a more major role in outbreaks.

Compliance.

Compliance is better at family gatherings, and worst in parties for young people who may consider themselves invulnerable.

Coercion.

Simply advising people not to exceed limits is generally considered insufficient, with enforceable rules the normal solution.

Enforcement.

It becomes difficult to define when a gathering becomes a party, so generally limits are placed on all gatherings. Limits on the size of gatherings vary depending on the level of lockdown. Limits below 20 people start to impact behaviour in private homes making the limits more guidelines than enforceable laws. In public places, it can be problematic to determine who is part of the same gathering. Despite this, so far the reports of problematic gatherings seem to relate only to parties or gatherings where the breach of the rules are clear and obvious, which reduces problems with enforcement.

It is only practical to enforce limits on gatherings sizes, where the gathering will attract attention.

Testing.

Why?

Testing enables determining the number of cases present in the community, and where case levels are low enough for resources to be allocated, to allow ‘track and trace’.

Compliance.

Scenes of huge lines of people volunteering to be tested are common, and often there is often no clear upside for people as a result of having been tested.

There are often rules limiting testing, that prevent people who want a test from having a test. Contact with a known case, or symptoms meeting criteria may be required.

There have been cases of people in quarantine resisting being tested, but this just results in a requirement for the full quarantine period, and seems to have no real negative consequences. I have not seen any reports yet of negative consequences from people who should be tested deciding not to be tested. But watch this space, I may update this.

Coercion & Enforcement.

I am not aware of attempts to coerce or enforce people to be tested. Again, I will research further.

For track and trace, it is requirement that people who are at risk come forward to be tested. Sometimes, visiting a bar, café, restaurant or other public location can have a requirement that contact details are provided. However, I have not seen any checks on validity of data provided, nor evidence of an enforceable requirement for a test following details having been provided.

Screw-Ups.

In can be a requirement to self-isolate while waiting for test results, and in Melbourne Australia, there are fines that have been applied to people for not isolating while awaiting test results. Logically, if the test is optional, the person could avoid a potential fine by not having a test. Then they are free by delaying being tested, to visit locations at will, and if infected, would spread the virus. In fact, as asymptomatic people will not learn they are infected due to delaying or avoiding the test, they will then spread the virus much further. This seems like a screw-up, as having had a test seems the wrong criteria for needing to self isolate. There are events that logically trigger the need to self isolate, like having visited a known risk location, and this would be a better reason to trigger self isolation being required. Having had a test should not be a reason to self isolate, as it discourages having a test, and testing rates have fallen to half earlier levels since enforcement began. Victoria has compensation available for income lost while waiting tests results, and limiting enforcement to those who have claimed for lost income would be one possible improvement.

Vaccines.

Why?

The goal with a vaccine is to require sufficient people to be vaccinated that herd immunity is developed. As with other vaccines, not everyone can be vaccinated. For example, new born babies need to wait to grow and develop first. In order to avoid risks to the vulnerable who cannot be vaccinated, herd immunity as a result of sufficient people being vaccinated to prevent spread is desired.

Compliance.

To early to say, but in the initial stages there will be sufficient volunteers to be vaccinated to avoid their own negative consequences. The challenge will arise with trying to reach herd immunity and requiring almost all people to be vaccinated. Research indicates there is a significant percentage of ‘anti-vaxers’.

Coercion.

It is possible to limit access to events or locations to those who have been vaccinated, in order to provide coercion.

Enforcement.

The problem with compulsory vaccination is that this fuels conspiracy theories, potentially increasing resistance to vaccinations.

Screw-ups.

The prime minister, Scott Morrison, told an interview this morning that any vaccine would be “as mandatory as possible”. He backtracked those comments later on Wednesday saying the government would not make a Covid-19 vaccine compulsory.

The guardian.

Despite several vaccines developed under the same process without concerns being raised, religious leaders are now raising questions on Covid-19 vaccines.

But Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Glenn Davies said there were ethical questions about the potential vaccine, because scientists have used cell lines from an electively aborted foetus.

“To use that tissue for science is reprehensible,” Dr Davies told AM.His concerns are shared by Catholic and Greek Orthodox leaders, who have written a joint letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison.Follow the latest news on the COVID-19 pandemic in our live blog.

Dr Davies said he would “have to think very seriously” about whether he would get the COVID-19 vaccine if it came from Oxford University.

Abc news

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