Pandemic as a divergent factor for Moldovan society. IPN debate

Moldovan society during the independence period has been divided or even considerably divided. This state of affairs is invoked to explain or even justify the developments that are not the desired ones. Against such a background, the pandemic brought other division reasons and criteria in society, like: between those who believe in COVID-19 and those who do not believe in it; between those who wear a face mask and those who do not wear a mask or wear it in a different way; between those who get vaccinated and those who do not get vaccinated. The concerns, the risks and dangers of such division to society and to every citizen were discussed by the participants in IPN’s public debate “Pandemic as a divergent factor for Moldovan society”.

Igor Boțan, the standing expert of IPN’s project, said that the global population has lived under a state of pandemic for over a year and a half. According to UN, the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic is the defining global health crisis of our time and the greatest challenge we have faced since World War Two. After its appearance at the end of 2019, the virus spread to all the continents, causing a record of over 2 million deaths meanwhile. “COVID-19 is more than a health crisis. It has unprecedented implications at social and economic levels. The pandemic generates devastating social and economic effects that will leave imprints on the social life. The people lose their jobs and incomes and cannot know when things will return to normalcy. Such small states as the Republic of Moldova, which depend on tourism and remittances, suffer a lot. Remittances declined considerably in 2021 too. It is projected that the total value of remittances will decrease by over US$100 billion and Moldova will be also affected.

In another development, Igor Boțan said Moldovan society is divided according to different criteria and one more cleavage appears – the vaccination aspect. Opinion polls show that only 30-40% of the Moldovans are predisposed to get a vaccine. Of these, about 25% already got vaccinated. Statistics show that up to 10,000 vaccine doses were administered daily in May-June-July, but in September the figure dropped to about 4,000. The authorities have relatively good instruments for persuading the people to get a vaccine. However, the case law of the ECHR says mandatory vaccination interferes with the person’s right to private life. Therefore, the ECHR recommends the states to find alternative methods even if mandatory vaccination would be legal and in the interests of public health. The authorities in Moldova are late in applying the whole set of tools worked out by international institutions to contain the pandemic.

According to Ala Tocarciuc, international public health expert, global data show that the number of COVID-19 cases in many countries started to decline. The number of people in hospitals and of deaths also decreased. It happens in the countries with a high vaccination rate. The Republic of Moldova is in the group of countries with a vaccination rate lower than 30%. In Moldova, the number of cases of infection, hospital admissions and deaths increases as the indicators in the vaccinated population sections and in the unvaccinated population sections differ. “The disease didn’t leave any of the countries on earth, but there are internal factors that determine the situation in each country. For example, Portugal vaccinated 98% of the population and the level of infections and hospital admissions in this country is very low. Many of the countries with a vaccination rate of over 60-70% also experience the fourth wave, but this wave for them is of low intensity and with a low number of infections and hospital admissions.”

The expert noted that the situation in Moldova is the opposite as not many people got vaccinated, but this situation is influenced not only by epidemiological or medical factors. “At regional level, in Romania, Moldova, Bulgaria, Ukraine, there were particular political processes and it was already proven that the factors that influence the vaccination level included political (electoral processes), ideological and demographic factors - the young population needs particular reasons, while the older population needs other reasons to get vaccinated. Increased coherence is needed here. The risks should be remedied. Those who were part of the problem, like the political forces, can become part of the solution. If the political forces that were divided in elections combine forces to increase the vaccination rate and to persuade the population to get a vaccine, a result can be achieved,” stated Ala Tocarciuc.

Psychologist Ștefan Popov, head of the Center of Scientific Research in Psychology, spoke about two scientific studies. The first study that was conducted in 2019 implies a psychological and cultural analysis of Moldovan society, where one of the measured psychological dimensions is the uncertainty avoidance criteria, which is to what extent a society can accept particular social changes at family, social, economic and political levels. “The pandemic brought the necessity of changing the lifestyle, behaviors. To what extent a society is ready to accept changes or put up resistance. In this regard, the Moldovan citizens obtained a high score. The Moldovans as society find it difficult to change the lifestyle, the method of coexistence and communication and are very resistant to changes. The Moldovans form part of a conservative, traditionalist society,” stated Ștefan Popov.

“To find out why this happens, a deeper psychoanalysis of the history of society is needed as the way in which culture, the values and norms develop is based on history. These values, for their part, were determined by historical, political and economic circumstances”. Ștefan Popov also said that society with a very high score in terms of avoidance of uncertainty also avoid innovations, do not trust science or technologies. “These societies prefer already known behaviors and methods and are traditionalist in this regard. That’s why when it goes to methods of protection against the virus, in our society the dispute is between vaccination and naturalist protection methods. Another study, of 2018, places the Republic of Moldova at the top of countries that trust science the least. Only 5% of the citizens have increased confidence in scientists, 48% have moderate confidence, while 38% do not trust the people of science. The vaccine is a product of science and society therefore does not trust it as the people do not have confidence in science, in contrast to Western societies,” stated the psychologist.

The public debate titled “Pandemic as a divergent factor for Moldovan society” was staged by IPN News Agency in the framework of the Developing Political Culture through Public Debates Project that is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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