Look, this has gone too far. In my case, taking a vaccine won’t be a problem. But trying to get me to carry something called a “digital green certificate”? You’d be mortified with the fear that people might confuse you with a supporter of Eamon Ryan and try to engage you in conversations about how best to grow tomatoes on your windowsill, or something:
The aim of Digital Green Certificates is to allow the return of free movement of people around Europe this summer – by proving that a person has either been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, has a negative test result, or has recovered from Covid-19.
Southern European states like Spain and Greece have pushed for Covid passports to be introduced, as their economies are heavily reliant on the summer holiday season.
But several EU members, such as France, have expressed concern it could discriminate against the majority of people who have not been offered a vaccine.
The more conspiratorial amongst us will, of course, believe that this is all about top-down control by the EU and Governments, trying to force people to get a vaccine. But whatever about that argument, its not what’s driving this EU-push for vaccine passports. No, this is all about money, and getting people back to the Canary Islands and the Amalfi Coast and all those other parts of southern Europe that depend almost entirely on tourism for their economy.
The introduction of mandatory quarantine, of course, has made tourism an entirely unattractive proposition, for many Europeans. Who wants to go to Corfu for two weeks of sun and little drinks with umbrellas in them, only to spend all of that time in a hotel under armed guard? The only way around it, short term, that these Governments see, is to give people a way to avoid the quarantine, if they have been vaccinated. Hence, the “digital green certificate”. That’s what they’re thinking.
The problem is twofold: First, this is going to require a hell of a lot of administration. How do you get your vaccine passport/digital green certificate? Will it be like getting an actual passport, which is one of the few things the Irish government is pretty good at, or will it be like, applying for a vaccination, which the Irish Government, well…. Here’s the Irish Time’s David Cochrane, who looked at how many steps are required to apply for a vaccination:
I've documented each of the steps along the process for registering, some might very well be auto-completed but this is not an intuitive experience… pic.twitter.com/ou9VQt7BCY
— David Cochrane (@davidcochrane) April 14, 2021
Remember, most people who have been vaccinated will have to go and apply for one of these certificates. That’s a whole new layer of bureaucracy for people to go through, and another opportunity for Governments to make a mess. If the plan is to roll these things out for this summer’s holiday season, it’s probably already too late: People who go on holiday tend to have them booked by now. If these passports come in, nobody is going to book a holiday unless they have one, and by then, for lots of people, it will be too late.
And, of course, you’ve got the principled, political arguments against it. Vaccine passports are a whole lot less popular, even with politicians, than you might expect. At EU level, you can probably expect substantive pushback from eastern European countries with relatively recent experience of a “papers please” culture, as well as from places like France where hardly anybody has been vaccinated.
One thing they have gotten right, though: The name. The EU’s long-standing approach has been to re-name unpopular things. Thus, the EU Constitution became the Lisbon Treaty, the EU army became “security and defence co-operation”, and the vaccine passport is becoming the digital green certificate. The problem, of course, is that they’ve always been a lot better, in Brussels, at naming things than actually doing them.