Following the rise of the Omicron variant within the UK, the government has responded by rapidly reinstating certain restrictions such as mask wearing, as well as introducing the controversial vaccine passports. The introduction of these passports, however, is something that should be opposed by anyone committed to defending civil liberties and preventing the now increasing rise of authoritarianism within this country.
Vaccine passports are thought to offer two tools, the first of which being the idea that in crowded public settings, such as nightclubs, those who are vaccinated provide safer areas with less transmission of Covid and as such can help stop the rise of the new variant. However, it has been clear that passports do not work in this way. It is well documented that even those fully vaccinated can spread the disease, highlighted by events which have used passports — such as Boardmasters — becoming superspreader events. Internal forecasts from the government have shown that even in their most optimistic outcomes, passports would only reduce transmission by a measly 5%, raising the question of whether the introduction of these passports is even worth such little reward.
To allow vaccine passports to become the new norm will simply allow the pandemic to reach a stage where it becomes never ending
The second tool a vaccine passport can potentially offer is a way to essentially coerce people who are not yet fully vaccinated or up to date with their booster jab into taking them out of fear of not being able to enjoy the same freedoms as their peers if they do not. The moral dilemma of asking if it is right to force people into taking injections in order to access football stadiums or nightclubs aside, the handing over of such power and allowing the government — especially this Conservative one — the ability to coerce the public into such decisions is disastrous for civil liberties.
The current Conservative government has already recently made great efforts to infringe on freedoms and civil liberties in this country, notably the right to protest through their draconian Police and Crime Bill. A similarly authoritarian and disgusting Nationality and Borders Bill, which grants the government permission to strip an individual of their British citizenship without warning, has also passed through the House of Commons under the radar, taking a back seat in the news to the new Omicron restrictions that have been introduced. With a government only too eager to control more aspects of people’s lives and entrench their power, why would it be rational to allow them to discriminate against who gets to access certain sections of society based on something so personal and flexible as a vaccine jab?
The government is beginning to create a new normal, one where they can control and divide society where they see fit
To allow vaccine passports to become the new norm will simply allow the pandemic to reach a stage where it becomes never ending. Zero Covid will not be attainable as it will be against the government’s interests to go back to a society where they can give up the ability to enact such authoritarian restrictions on people’s lives and have it be seen as legitimate and welcomed by the majority of the public and media class alike. The passports will develop seamlessly from needing two vaccines into needing a booster jab, then potentially next year, or the year after, you will need two, or even three booster jabs to be able to access clubs, stadiums or concerts.
Believing any promises government ministers may make on these limitations of the passports can be easily discarded, Nadhim Zahawi tweeted at the start of the year that categorically vaccine passports would not be introduced — he was then one of the 369 MPs who voted for the introduction of them in parliament.
It is most certainly not the time to give an authoritarian government even more power and control over us under the guise of public health
The government is beginning to create a new normal, one where they can control and divide society where they see fit; one where they are setting the building blocks on a path to a digitalised surveillance system where your vaccination status will be only a small sample of what they have on you. It may seem conspiratory, but in this pandemic we have gone from a stage where we have been told that we had two weeks to flatten the curve, to one where we just needed a firebreak lockdown to save Christmas, to one where once everyone got vaccinated we would see the end of restriction.
Now, though, we have arrived at the stage where we are facing a less deadly variant within a heavily vaccinated population. It is time to move on. It has been time to move on since July 19th. It is most certainly not the time to give an authoritarian government even more power and control over us under the guise of public health when it is clear that vaccine passports do not work and are simply a tool by the government to increase their power over the people.