Covid incompatibility reasons | R.L.

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Do you remember Serafín Carballo? His case flickered briefly in June last year but soon went out. Everyone forgot Serafín, who was of pensionable age and probably decided that he may as well disappear from a spotlight which hadn’t burned that brightly anyway. Remember him? Would you ever have known about him if he hadn’t been sacked?

Serafín was the director of the Balearics office for childhood and adolescence. He was referred to as the ‘Defensor del Menor’, the defender of the minor. His boss was the minister for social affairs, Fina Santiago. It was she who dismissed him, with the support of President Armengol. The reason? Serafín hadn’t been vaccinated, and he showed little inclination to be vaccinated. Santiago was of the view that his personal decision was “incompatible with the values and health criteria that the government defends and promotes with respect to vaccination and public health”.

Santiago said that she respected his reasons, which - from what one could make out - were to do with potential effects of the vaccines. He wished to wait and see, a stance which, had everyone else thought this way, would have meant no one being vaccinated. It wasn’t a strong argument, but he had adopted his stance and that, where he was concerned, was all there was to it.

How did Santiago come to find out that he wasn’t vaccinated? Had he taken to social media to declare his opposition? No. Had he given an interview? Also no. The information about Serafín’s non-vaccination status was revealed in an unexpected way. The Anti-Corruption Office, investigating allegations of vaccination queue-jumping by senior officials, had demanded information about vaccination, e.g. when it was given. No one in the government, it was to be explained, had for one minute thought there might be a senior official who hadn’t been vaccinated. But there was. Serafín. And the information was publicly available.

Had there been vaccination of minors at that time, then I might have felt differently. But there wasn’t, and so I had sympathy for Serafín, in particular because of how the information had emerged. Moreover, as it was said, there wasn’t a written regulation concerning the dismissal of an official in such a circumstance - not having been vaccinated.

Had he remained in his position and the information about his not having been vaccinated come out some months later, there would have been a different complexion on his case. He would have been in a very awkward situation because of his position. That is hypothetical though. At the time, his position did not imply a relationship to the vaccination programme. But is position relevant when it comes to compatibility with those values and health criteria that Santiago referred to?

This brings us to Josep Manchado, the now ex-director for the environment at the Council of Majorca, and another senior official of whom little would have been known if he hadn’t been dismissed for Covid incompatibility reasons. Does the environment have anything to do with Covid measures?

Not really, no. But Josep has been dismissed anyway, the government spokesperson, Iago Negueruela, having made clear that position is indeed irrelevant. “Public officials have a special duty to understand the situation we are in and to respond to it.” The mission of a public office should be to value the efforts of health workers. Joking about the situation is “intolerable when there have been deaths and people are in ICU”.

The government is therefore supportive of his dismissal. Spokespeople for political parties, Més and the PP, have also voiced their support, Lluis Apesteguia of Més having observed that Josep’s comparing the Covid passport to Nazism trivialises Nazism. “Let’s not confuse liberty with irresponsibility.” At one level a purely Podemos affair, given that Josep Manchado and his boss, Aurora Ribot, the councillor for the environment, are both members of Podemos, the matter is clearly broader, and it is one that Josep has, quite frankly, brought upon himself.

Perhaps there is more to his relations with Ribot than has been stated, but he must surely have appreciated that he was entering dangerous territory by making public observations against the Covid passport, confinement (isolation) and masks. His case is therefore very different to that of Serafín Carballo, for whom one did have sympathy. Josep hasn’t expressed opposition to vaccination, but his views, legitimate enough in themselves, should have been kept to himself and certainly not been expressed by pandering to the most banal sentiments of opponents to Covid measures - Nazism, sheep mentality.

Public office does come with responsibility, and so the position occupied - a director for the environment at the Council of Mallorca in this instance - ultimately doesn’t matter. It is the public office which does, wherever this is located. Josep Manchado chose to make his opposition a public matter. Serafín Carballo did not.