UK Protest. Credit: EuroNews

Boris retreats: No vaccine passports for UK

A few months ago, there was some talk in the more excitable corners of the internet that vaccine passports were the precursor to all sorts of nefarious globalist plans to register and monitor and track people for all eternity. The first step, you might say, towards a new world order. If you are somebody who read that and worried about it, then perhaps it is time to relax a bit:

Plans to introduce vaccine passports for access into nightclubs and large events in England will not go ahead, the health secretary has said.

Sajid Javid told the BBC: “We shouldn’t be doing things for the sake of it.”

He said the government had looked at the evidence, adding: “I’m pleased to say we will not be going ahead.”

It was thought the plan, which came under criticism from venues and some MPs, would be introduced at the end of this month.

No 10 stressed it would be kept “in reserve” should it be needed over autumn or winter.

Under the scheme, people would have been required to show proof – whether of double vaccination, a negative Covid test or finishing self-isolating after a positive PCR test – in order to gain entry to clubs and other crowded events.

About 65% of Britons are fully vaccinated at this stage, and about 73% have received at least one dose. That is substantially behind the Irish figures, despite a much faster start to the UK jab programme earlier in the year. One reason for that appears to be much greater vaccine hesitancy amongst the younger population in the UK compared to what has been experienced here in Ireland. Vaccination rates are also much lower amongst Britain’s large ethnic minority population, who have traditionally been harder to reach by Government initiatives.

That low vaccination rate amongst the young, of course, would also have made the vaccine passport proposal for nightclubs and other gatherings much more politically impactful. In Ireland, the vaccine passports have not really posed much of a problem for people outside of the small cohort who are refusing a vaccine on principle: After all, when most of the population have one, very few people, relatively, are inconvenienced. In Britain, much larger numbers of unvaxxed people would have meant a much greater impact from the vaccine passports, and therefore, in turn, much more anger from people who suddenly found their Saturday night plans ending at the nightclub door.

Then there is the other consideration: The very low rates of death and hospitalisation amongst the young, and unvaxxed. Since, at this stage, there is no sign of that cohort flooding UK hospitals and overwhelming the system, and since naturally acquired immunity is stronger and more durable than vaccine-acquired immunity, there may well be a policy argument that the young and unvaxxed getting covid over the winter is both cheaper, and, in the long run, just as effective, as vaccination.

Boris and the Tories, of course, would have us all believe that this decision is an ideological one – that they are and have ever been the party of personal choice and personal freedom. In this case, they can pull the other one. They can say now that they did not want to foster a “papers please” culture, but that was not a problem last week, or the week before, when they were gung ho behind this very proposal.

No, in this case, it was the fear of a public backlash that primarily softened their cough. There are those here in Ireland that firmly believe that vaccine passports are some kind of internationally conceived idea, and that the Irish Government is doing the bidding of some shadowy, and nefarious, foreign entity. That is not true. The truth is that in Ireland, with its almost universal vaccination rate, the vaccine passports have been popular. That is a cultural thing: We have always been much more comfortable with state authority than our British or American friends, and much less tolerant of minority opinion. In the US, or the UK, a vaccine passport might be seen as a kind of certificate of conformity, and therefore a bad thing. In Ireland, a vaccine passport is also seen as a certificate of conformity, but therefore a good thing.

The Irish Government, of course, plans on phasing them out. In other countries, you might expect that news to be greeted with joy.

Here, expect it to be greeted with stiff opposition. The Irish public really like their vaccine passports. That is a hard thing for many of us to come to terms with, which might explain the popularity of conspiracy theories as an alternative explanation.

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