Boris Johnson’s Govt Revamps Vaccine Passport Push Under Winter ‘Plan B’

Anti-vaccination protesters, including one holding a placard against coronavirus vaccine passports, gather in Parliament Square outside the Houses of Parliament in central London on July 19, 2021 as coronavirus restrictions are lifted in England. - Day-to-day pandemic restrictions were lifted in England on July 19 but "freedom day" was met …
TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has once again raised the spectre of imposing a coronavirus vaccine passport scheme, under a so-called “Plan B” for the winter months if the UK’s socialised healthcare system is overrun with cases of the Chinese virus.

In a “Proposal for mandatory COVID certification in a Plan B scenario” published on Monday, the government set out the arguments for implementing a health pass system in England, as has already been enacted by the devolved governments of Scotland and Wales.

Under the supposed backup plan, only those who have received at least two doses of a coronavirus vaccine would be granted the passport, which would come in the form of an update to the NHS app, which already stores vaccination status. Those who have recovered from the virus and therefore have a natural immunity or those who have tested negative on a test would not be afforded the health pass.

Every nightclub, as well as other businesses which serve alcohol, play music, or have dancing past 1 pm would be subjected to the scheme. Indoor events with over 500 people capacity, and outdoor events such as music festivals with over 4,000 people, and sports arenas with over 10,000 fans would all be forced to ask people for their papers.

The government would also “encourage” other venues to voluntarily implement the scheme, meaning that in practice the health pass could be extended far wider throughout British society than just at large events and nightclubs.

The plan did carve out exceptions for weddings, funerals, and religious services, as well as protests or other large commemorative events. The mandate would also not apply to workplaces, however, the government would allow private businesses to impose their own regulations.

While the government has said that the introduction of vaccine passports is not their preferred means of fighting the coronavirus, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has personally defended the idea, calling them a “game changer” and a “life-saver”.

The government has been consistently inconsistent on its stance on health passes, with both Cabinet Minister Michael Gove and Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zawahi firmly stating that they would not be introduced, only to later backtrack on the issue.

The public and industry leaders have been given until October 11th to share their opinions on the measure.

To date, 83 MPs, including 44 Conservatives, 25 Labour, 12 Lib Dems, one Green, and one Independent alongside sixteen peers have joined the cross-party campaign declaration from the civil liberties group Big Brother Watch to oppose COVID-status certificates.

Appearing at an event on the fringes of the Labour Party Conference in Brighton organised by Big Brother Watch on Monday, senior figures from the party expressed their opposition to the measure, representing the biggest pushback against the authoritarian move to date, with the party hitherto largely supporting restrictions throughout the pandemic.

Baroness Shami Chakrabarti said: “I object to covert id on the basis that it normalises compulsory ID checks of the most intrusive kind.

The former director of Liberty added that she believes vaccine passports “are bound to lead to discrimination bullying and corruption,” noting that even the Labour Party Conference was mandating vaccination status for entry.

“This high price to both liberty and equality will bring no benefit in my view to public health and it will more likely bring the grave danger of creating a false sense of security,” Chakrabarti said.

Labour MP Dawn Butler said that she opposed the imposition of vaccine passports over concerns that the health passes will create a “two-tier society” in which people from ethnic minority backgrounds will be subjected to increased discrimination.

The director of Big Brother Watch, Silkie Carlo stressed the importance for the movement against vaccine passports to be a “cross-party campaign because tyranny will always follow power as night follows day”.

“We are now about to be asked not only to show our medical papers to state officials but to our peers, to bouncers, and bosses, and people,” Carlo warned.

“Talking of divisions, to be clear i don’t see this at all as being this is us versus anti-vaxers. It’s the public versus authoritarians,” she said.

Turning her attention towards the Labour Party, Carlo expressed her dissatisfaction in the party for failing to stand up for their professed principles.

“Welsh Labor have let us down on this issue massively already out of the blue announcing that there will be COVID passes in Wales, with no talk about a vote.

“We’re even seeing potentially an overspill of ruling by diktat from people that have always
championed democracy and I think that is a reflection of how far we have gone and how normalised that kind of authoritarian mode of politics.”

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka

.

Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.