Immunity passports

Rip it up: the vaccine passport experiment needs to end

Flying anywhere right now is difficult, but for those of us who are jabbed, it is at least possible. So just after Christmas I set off for America to see my family in Connecticut, armed with the NHS app technology which we were once assured would never be used as a vaccine passport. It’s now precisely that. I tapped my phone to summon my travel credentials en route to Heathrow, but to my astonishment my vaccination status wasn’t there: ‘No Covid-19 records found.’ My ‘passport’ had been suspended. My crime, it turned out, was to have caught Omicron in mid-December. I’d had a positive result on a lateral flow test

Why the government was right to drop vaccine passports

12 Sept 2021: Health Secretary Sajid Javid has announced that the government is shelving its plans to introduce mandatory domestic vaccine passports (details here). Below is Lionel Shriver’s column from August 2021, in which she argues vaccine passports were always a bad tool for tackling Covid-19. Despite having mocked app-happy Albion in my last column, I finally downloaded the NHS app. (Lest I seem a raging hypocrite, the institutional app is quite distinct from the Track-and-Trace Covid one, possession of which marks you as insane.) I found the app’s elaborate security features for registration bitterly comical. I had to photograph my passport, then record a video of myself speaking four prescribed numbers

Italians are seeing red over the Covid ‘Green Pass’

Rome Following Emmanuel Macron’s example, the Italian Prime Minister, Mario Draghi, has announced the introduction of a ‘Green Pass’. Draghi’s initiative, which was announced at a press conference on 24 July and comes into effect on 6 August, has sparked protests all over Italy The Green Pass will discriminate between Italians who are vaccinated and those who are not. Anyone who has not received their jabs, or cannot show a recent negative test or that they have recovered from Covid in the past six months, will be denied access to indoor restaurants, museums, cinemas and exhibitions. Further restrictions under discussion would prevent them from access to trains and ferries. There

Boris is in danger of becoming the Prime Minister he once warned against

Back when Boris Johnson was on a mission to stop identity cards being used in Britain, he made a very persuasive argument: if parliament allows such expensive technology to come into existence, then the government will cook up excuses to use it. They will start to ‘scarify the population’ by saying there is a threat or an emergency. If they sink millions into an ID card scheme then be in no doubt: our liberty will be threatened. The slippery slope, he said, is one that the government is sure to go down. Boris Johnson is in danger of becoming the Prime Minister he once warned against. At first, we were

Nanny Boris: the PM’s alarming flight from liberalism

‘Freedom day’ is coming, but how free will we actually be when it arrives? Boris Johnson is to abolish all coronavirus restrictions on 19 July. But in the small print, we find a strange caveat. The government will be ‘encouraging’ businesses to demand proof of vaccination from customers if there’s a ‘higher risk’ of the virus spreading on their premises. If they do not do so, then the government reserves the power to force them to. It’s a voluntary system — until it’s not. In a rather Orwellian turn, ‘freedom day’ means freedom for some, but not others. The unvaccinated might find their freedoms curtailed in ways that would have

The biggest danger to Boris comes from the enemies within

Boris Johnson’s predecessor was destroyed by her inability to meet deadlines. Theresa May extended the Brexit transition period so many times that her party eventually turned against her. Johnson, who was notorious for pushing deadlines when he was a journalist, is now discovering the political problem with missing dates. The Prime Minister may still be flying high in the polls but if he cannot meet the new date for ending restrictions — 19 July — then his own MPs will lose faith in his ability to restore normality. The whole point of the government’s staggeringly long lockdown timetable, announced back in February, was to set an achievable deadline. The theory

Data, not dates: there is no reason to delay a return to normal life

A slogan can come back to haunt you. For Boris Johnson, the words ‘data not dates’ sounded powerful at a time when Covid cases were high and hospitals full. The idea was that the government would be guided by scientific reason, would respond to the figures and would not let rigid targets dictate policy. Since the Prime Minister announced his roadmap at the end of February, however, ‘dates’ seem to have become far more important than ‘data’. How can he claim to be following the data when he will not budge from a timeline which now looks like it was designed for a different phase of the pandemic? Why were

Let’s show vaccine passports for football fans the red card

As I’ve written before, the thing I’ve missed the most in the past 12 months is going to see QPR with my son Charlie. So I’m alarmed about the prospect of having to produce a ‘Covid status certificate’ every time I want to go to a game. That was the advice in a recent letter signed by various sporting panjandrums and I fear it will also be the recommendation of the taskforce set up by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to look into reopening sports venues. The first and most obvious objection is that it’s a breach of my liberty. It’s an inversion of the Common Law principle

Joe Biden has dropped ‘vaccine passports’. Will Boris?

‘The government would love to put issues such as these beyond the bounds of debate by creating an air of national emergency.’ So this magazine declared on 27 November 2004 in response to Tony Blair’s proposal for national identity cards, which had just been announced in the Queen’s speech. Our editor then, Boris Johnson, argued that their very existence would threaten the character and liberty of the country. If you buckle in an emergency, he argued, the principle will be lost for ever. He urged Tory MPs to rebel and crush identity cards which, he later said, he’d abolish if he ever ended up in government. History now repeats itself.

Matthew Parris

Vaccine passports are a ticket to freedom

In principle I’m in favour of vaccination passports, and don’t understand how — again in principle — anyone could be against the theory. One can have severe doubts about whether our NHS, pubs, theatres, sports grounds and restaurants would actually be capable of operating such a scheme, yet at the same time think it would be an excellent thing if they were. To me it seems not just sensible and fair but obvious that access to jobs or spaces where there is an enhanced risk of viral transmission might be restricted to people who could demonstrate a high degree of immunity. I’d add that in order for the idea to

Kate Andrews

Britain’s vaccine success was supposed to lead to freedom. What happened?

In November, when cases were surging and a second lockdown was under way, Boris Johnson made a big promise: things might look bleak, he said, but the ‘scientific cavalry’ would arrive. It duly did, with a vaccination programme that became the envy of Europe. The mood of the country lifted. Today, Britain is still on course to become the first country in Europe to vaccinate its way out of the pandemic — and lockdown. The economy can reopen in time for summer: truly a great escape. Science achieved the seemingly impossible. Produced in record time, Covid vaccines are proving more effective than most predicted. In Britain, cases and deaths have

Boris on liberty: the PM has always been against ID cards – until now

‘I loathe the idea on principle. I never want to be commanded, by any emanation of the British state, to produce evidence of my identity.’ From the ‘personal notes’ on Boris Johnson’s website, February 2005 ‘There is the loss of liberty, and the creepy reality that the state will use these cards — doubtless with the best possible intentions — to store all manner of detail about us, our habits, what benefits we may claim, and so on.’ Daily Telegraph, November 2004 ‘The government would love to put issues such as these beyond the bounds of debate by creating an air of national emergency. As far as the Prime Minister

In Israel, vaccine passports are already redundant

Jerusalem The vaccination centre where I got my jabs was in the cavernous foyer of the Jerusalem Arena, Israel’s largest indoor sports venue. Through the locked glass doors, I could see the seats where my 15-year-old and I spent so many hours cheering on our basketball team. Putting my ear to the door, I could hear the players practising. Last week, we were finally back in the stands after a year’s absence. Fans were allowed in, at quarter of the arena’s capacity. After showing my season ticket, I was then asked for my ‘green pass’, which proves I have been vaccinated. My son, too young for vaccination, had to queue

Letters: Immunity passports are nothing to fear

Nothing to fear Sir: Many of us await the day when we can travel abroad for much-anticipated holidays — but surely there is a distinction between immunisation passports and Tony Blair-type IDs (‘Papers, please’, 13 February)? If a country requires you to be immunised to travel there in order to protect its citizens against Covid, then I would be happy to have that ‘passport’ requirement. It is quite different from carrying ID with you in your own country. Let’s face it, the danger from Covid will fade in time, and the ‘passport’ requirement along with it. After all we happily travel with a passport in our pockets to show who

Ross Clark

Blair’s back – and advising Tories on vaccine ID cards

When the Prime Minister mentioned ‘Covid status certification’ as part of his route back to normal life, one man must have enjoyed the moment. For Tony Blair it was yet one more little victory in his UK comeback tour, made all the sweeter because Boris Johnson was once a principal opponent of the idea of any ID card system. Blair has been pushing vaccine passports like nobody’s business. A recent paper published by his Institute for Global Change advocated that we carry ‘digital health passports’ on our smartphones, which we could scan on entry to bars, theatres and other places. If you don’t have a smartphone, the paper suggested, the

James Forsyth

What will life look like after 21 June?

‘Alas’ is a word used many times by Boris Johnson during the pandemic. It is how he prefaces announcements that the data is getting worse and so the government has to impose further restrictions. In recent weeks, though, the numbers have been going in the right direction. The first stage of the vaccination programme was completed two days ahead of schedule. For the first time in this crisis, government targets are being moved forward, not back. Early results seem to show that the jabs are more effective than expected: a Public Health Scotland study suggests that the Oxford-Astra-Zeneca vaccine, the workhorse of the UK immunisation programme, cuts the risk of

Letters: Immunity passports are nothing new

Too many bishops Sir: As a former Anglican clergyman, I have been following your articles about the current state of the Church of England with interest and sadness. I note that the recent article by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York is strong on modish phrases, such as a ‘mixed ecology church’, but it ignores two of the large elephants in the room (‘A Christian vision’, 13 February). The number of bishops over the past century has more or less doubled, in spite of the diminishing number of worshippers and parish clergy. Likewise, while archdeacons used commonly to run their own parishes in addition to their archdiaconal duties, they are

Mary Wakefield

The case for immunity passports

For more than 20 years, I’ve been raging away at pointless rules. When my blood’s up, there’s not a foam-flecked Tory backbencher that can hold a candle to me. My friends blanch when I start on again about risk aversion in the C of E, dogs banned from beaches, the pond-weed creep of health and safety. I can ruin dinner parties, easily. And yet the idea of vaccination passports, which has my freedom-loving friends fit to be tied, leaves me quite calm. Bring them on, I say, and quickly. I don’t for a moment believe that Covid immunity cards are the first step on the dismal path to a Chinese-style social credit

The stealthy rise of vaccine passports

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’