As I stir the ashes of this week’s campfire I find myself in a state of slight confusion – will I need a vaccine ‘passport’ to able to go the pub for a drink and a much-needed ‘in person’ meet-up with my Glint team? Or to travel abroad? Or to sit down for a meal in a restaurant?
According to the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, when non-essential shops and pub gardens in England re-open on 12 April “there is absolutely no question of people being asked to produce a certification or a Covid status report when they go to the shops or to the pub garden or to the hairdressers or whatever…”
For good measure, he added “we’re not planning that for step three, either”. Step 3 (which will be no earlier than 17 May) will see the re-opening of theatres, cinemas, galleries “subject to specific conditions: that they comply with COVID-Secure guidance including taking reasonable steps to limit the risk of transmission, complete a related risk assessment; and ensure that those attending do not mix beyond what is permitted by the social contact limits”. Those social contact limits ban groups of more than six people or two households indoors. How will that work in a cinema or pool hall for example?
Not even by 21 June is it guaranteed that the abnormal conditions of life which have been imposed by the government (and heartily supported by the general public, if most opinion polls are to be believed) during Covid-19 might be removed. “This is subject to the outcome of the Events Research Programme, and a review of social distancing measures”, says the government’s website. Restrictions on what we can do, how we can mingle, where we can go, are being lifted; at a snail’s pace.
But the introduction of vaccine certificates or passports – which would include vaccination status, test results or evidence of someone having contracted and recovered from Covid-19 – “could potentially play a role” in the future, says the government.
Boris Johnson said during a debate on national identity cards, when a previous (Labour) government introduced plans for them in 2003: “I will in no circumstances carry one and even were I compelled to do so, I would take it out and destroy it on the spot were I ever asked to produce it. It is a plastic poll tax that will do nothing to assist the struggle against terrorists and will hugely expand the powers of the state over the individual”.
The last time the UK legally imposed compulsory identity cards was during the Second World War – everyone had to carry the card at all times and failure to do so was a criminal offence. That lasted until 1952 – seven years after the war ended.
The sheer bureaucracy of administering all these ‘steps’ (the ‘tier’ system has been quietly dropped in England at least) and ensuring compliance is mind-boggling. Whole new businesses have grown up around Covid testing, like moss on an ill-tended garden path.
There is already opposition building among MPs and others outside Parliament to any idea of compelling the introduction of ‘Covid passports’ – but the private sector may start imposing them anyway. The risk is not just Covid-19 but widespread confusion as to what is or is not permitted, and on what basis.
Until next week!
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