Finally, in April 2021 the last holdout anti-church state, California, waived the white flag, removing its mandatory capacity limits and indoor religious singing and chanting ban. Governor Newsom agreed to statewide permanent injunctions against his sweeping restrictions on places of worship, paying out millions in dollars in attorney’s fees to dismiss civil rights lawsuits. But the damage had already been done. The collateral damage to people of faith and places of worship is significant and is still being calculated. It may take many years to understand the full impact of foolish public health policies.
Damage to religious individuals has been significant. Believers struggling with anxiety, depression and hopelessness during the pandemic were physically and emotionally cut off from their faithful community and spiritual support systems.
As Europe groaned and North America tottered, outsiders marvelled at clips of carefree Kiwis playing on golden beaches washed by azure seas and the soothing words of Ardern’s coterie of scientific advisors and media fans of the ‘zero-Covid strategy’. With a possible nod to the acclaimed E.J. Thribb, one of the country’s leading poets even ventured a memorable ode to mark the world-beating moment and the emergence of our ‘stately queen’.
Some of us were not entirely convinced. As a short-term idea, fashioning a Fortress New Zealand had obvious appeal, but as a long-term arrangement it always felt a little bananas. Hiding under the bed while an intruder can be heard prowling outside your window is all well and good, but as a domestic arrangement sustained over many months it has drawbacks.
When and how was it supposed to end? Were Ardern and what she ceaselessly hailed as her obedient ‘team of five million’ just expected to remain under the bed indefinitely rather than facing up to the inevitable reality of endemicity that most other nations had already accepted as their eventual lot?
And what about the other ‘team’ of New Zealanders, the many thousands of expatriate Kiwis stranded abroad? Would they simply stay put forever? Could New Zealand, which makes much of itself as a stickler for international protocols, refuse to repatriate its own while at the same time outsourcing their welfare needs — including Covid-related care — to various host governments?
As Fauci’s comments from 2004 and March of 2020 make clear, the John Snow Memorandum was simply wrong to claim “there is no evidence for lasting protective immunity to SARS-CoV-2 following natural infection”.
After all, evidence from other respiratory viruses surely counts (even if it’s not as powerful as evidence from SARS-CoV-2 itself). Each time a new respiratory virus emerges, do scientists go back to the drawing board and pretend they know nothing about how it interacts with the immune system?
In fact, the first challenge trial for Covid was published way back in May of 2020, although it involved monkeys rather than humans. There was clear evidence for natural immunity, with the researchers finding “near-complete protection in all animals after SARS-CoV-2 rechallenge”.
So we’ve always had good circumstantial evidence for natural immunity from Covid. But health authorities chose to ignore or downplay it.