Half a cheer for vaccine passports

I could write to curse the idea as discriminatory and a shackle of servitude; or I could praise vaccine passports as a route to freedom. I could instead say both, but do not let the government machine anywhere near them. There is a better way.

It has been said by many commentators that a vaccine passport scheme would be divisive and discriminatory. It would indeed treat people who have not had the jab differently from those who have, but that is not much of an objection: if it liberates millions, let them be liberated. Some people have eyesight too bad to let them drive, but we do not ban cars for everyone in the name of equality. If a scheme reopens businesses on the brink of bankruptcy, let us do everything to let them reopen.

Those who are immune are at no risk and are no danger to anyone. At the beginning of this epidemic, I pleaded for those who had been through the disease to be given their freedom back – and not just for themselves but to let the economy come back on line. Those ‘immunity passports’ were discussed but it came to naught. Now the epidemic is practically over in the United Kingdom, because of the immunisation programme, and new infections from Europe and America will hit that wall of herd immunity. We should be fully opening soon.

Even so, the fear is still there, of crowded venues, hot with breath in our faces, the few yet diseased spreading to those still vulnerable, who cannot escape. The trains into London are still emptied by fear and no one will sit next to anyone else – they stand, in half-empty carriages. What will they be like in pubs and cinemas?

If customers are to have confidence to return and spend money in pubs, clubs and theatres, they want assurance. These are the vaccine passports.

The pubs and venues are the ones who need a scheme to keep their customers safe; not the government. Nothing the government does depends on it. However in this emergency the government has taken control of every aspect of life, and death. They feel responsible and the legion of advisers (if they were more honest) enjoy the power. The politicians, bureaucrats and newly empowered doctors now need to step back. It is not their fight. The government’s job in this is to take their hands off and open us up as fast as possible. If they demand that pubs be closed to those still at risk, let the pubs determine the question. They will do it better.

If the Civil Service get hold of a vaccine passport system, they will mire it in bureaucracy, and give a lucrative monopoly to a company with the slickest PR department. That company then has a financial interest in making it as complicated and expensive as possible and of staving off the end of lockdown, without actually achieving the objective. The lockdown has been manna from heaven for leech companies. The American government, remember, spent an eye-watering $1 billion on a probe, and it got to Mars; the British government spent eleven times the amount on Track and Trace and it didn’t get off the ground.

The pubs however know what they need to get customers through the door. It does not need a nationwide, intrusive database, it does not need to follow you round the country and it does not need a heavy, laminated and bound document set to last years: the longest it would ever be needed is a couple of months until the last of the lockdown is sloughed off. It just needs a simple card with a bar code or QR code for the user’s name and likeness and confirmation that they have had the jab, certified by the existing database. A single, spotty geek fresh out of an IT course could programme that, and for barely more than the cost of a pint. Breweries and theatres and airlines could do their own or join together for one they can all accept. All there is to say to Matt Hancock is ‘get away and stay away’.

Some dangers with vaccination passports have been well rehearsed. For me, the worst are twofold. The first is that the government will take ownership of the scheme and effectively persecute those who (for whatever reason) will not have the vaccination. The second is more sinister: that if the scheme is successful, allowing the vaccinated to crowd into sports grounds, pubs and theatres, that may be an excuse to prolong the lockdown for the rest. Indeed if a really expensive, bureaucratic scheme were adopted, the lockdown would have to be extended just to justify the expense and effort.

Overall – no – Matt Hancock’s Department must not even contemplate a vaccine passport scheme. However if the venues want one, as well they might, they will do it far better than a bureaucracy ever could.

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Author: AlexanderTheHog

A humble scribbler who out of my lean and low ability will lend something to Master Hobbes