Lara Prendergast Lara Prendergast

The stealthy rise of vaccine passports

Lara Prendergast has narrated this article for you to listen to.

Do you remember normality? A busy diary. Holidays, parties, pubs. Who hasn’t looked back and wondered how we can return to that life which now seems so free. Sacrifices have been inevitable. After a year in and out of lockdown, are we ready to make some more?

The Covid vaccines promise freedom, or at least some version of it according to government ministers. By the end of next month, if the vaccine rollout continues at its current rate, all over-50s will have been offered their first jab. The Prime Minister has assured us that ‘things will be very different by the spring’. Matt Hancock has promised a ‘happy and free’ summer — or, as he’s careful to say, ‘British summer’. If we want to go abroad, that might be a different matter. But all this potential freedom isn’t entirely free — it could very well depend on whether we can prove we’ve had the jab.  

The Prime Minister of Greece, whose economy depends on holidaymakers, has proposed a system of vaccine passports, a global ID card scheme which identifies the vaccinated. His logic is simple and compelling: vaccines speed up the return to normal life. A system of immunisation passports could get us flying again. He’d like the EU to oversee it.

Denmark will start issuing vaccine passports this month, followed by Sweden, where identity cards and ‘personal numbers’ are already ubiquitous. Israel has introduced a ‘green pass’ for those who can prove their immunity status, which grants them access to shopping centres, gyms and museums. Joe Biden has asked for an evaluation of a vaccine ID scheme for Americans. Spain, Italy, Cyprus and Malta — all desperate to revive tourism — are in favour of vaccine passports.

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