Richard sets out his views on vaccine passports (or “Covid status certificates”):
I am not supportive of the Government’s early draft ideas for domestic vaccine passports.
I believe domestic vaccine passports to be an unwelcome variation on ID cards which are anathema to British concepts of freedom. It is already clear that their introduction would have wide ranging practical issues in deployment and acceptance and are likely to heighten discrimination particularly against younger people and those who, for whatever personal reason, do not take a vaccine.
Overall, there are three potential formats for vaccine passports: one for international travel and two for domestic purposes. The domestic purposes are either as a requirement for certain jobs or as a requirement for access to certain venues or services in the UK
Providing proof of vaccination for international travel does not raise too many concerns for me. As countries will be developing their own policies regarding health status requirements for entry, it seems right that the UK government should participate in global schemes to facilitate easier international travel that complies with these rules. Proof of vaccination is still required for entry to certain countries, so this would not establish a new precedent.
This rationale however rapidly disappears when the government suggests potential domestic uses.
A requirement for proof of vaccination for certain jobs may have a role but only in a very limited way and when other options have been pursued. Care workers who regularly visit the elderly or others at high risk might be the most likely profession for which we might consider a requirement for vaccination. However, with the emergence of rapid testing, it would be better, in my view, to offer the employee an option for taking regular tests in place of a vaccination.
On the third potential role – for vaccine passports to be required for entry to certain venues in the UK – I think this is not necessary and would be an extremely undesirable change.
There have been suggestions that vaccine passports may only be a temporary domestic measure; that they will assist with a faster re-opening particularly of mass attendance venues such as sports events and exhibitions; or that vaccine passports could be optional for businesses to adopt or not depending on their circumstances.
None of these rationales carry much weight with me, and certainly not when placed against the introduction, albeit largely in digital form, for the requirement that the general public carry “papers” with them to access services that have been generally and routinely available on a free access basis.
The past year as the country has grappled with constraining the spread of the virus has wrenched many of our habitual freedoms from our grasp. As the vaccine rollout continues to progress, the Government should be focussing its energies on restoring those freedoms with alacrity.
I very much hope the government will drop these draft proposals for vaccine passports and will work actively to encourage them to do so.