Tuesday, 28 September 2021

First, they came for the nightclubbers

Earlier this year, I wrote about the threat of the introduction of vaccine passports, especially as it might potentially affect the pub trade. Things seemed to go quiet on this front over the summer, but it has now resurfaced. Although the government has, for now, ruled out their introduction in England, they are to be implemented next month in Scotland and Wales for nightclubs and similar venues. And yesterday a consultation document was issued on their possible application in England, which must be the first time I have seen the word “discotheque” used in a contemporary context for years.

It seems to me that the whole idea of forcing responsible adults to be medicated, or seeking to deprive them of their liberties if they were not, is fundamentally repugnant and immoral, as is expecting people to accept medication primarily for the benefit of others. Bodily autonomy is a fundamental human right. It is the kind of thing that is done in totalitarian states. While not exactly the same, it is analogous to the various forms of discrimination, including that against people with disabilities, that are prohibited under equalities legislation.

It has also been argued that, as these vaccines are still in an experimental stage, any attempt to coerce people into taking them would contravene the Nuremberg Code, which was introduced in the 1940s to outlaw various kinds of non-consensual medical experimentation carried out by the Nazis.

Of course there is an argument that, in a time of emergency, normal civil liberties may need to be suspended, although we must always bear in mind the words of the economist and philosopher Friedrich Hayek that “If we wish to preserve a free society, it is essential that we recognize that the desirability of a particular object is not sufficient justification for the use of coercion.” There is also always a tendency for emergency measures to be kept in place long after the emergency they were intended for has passed. However, even at a strictly utilitarian level, the idea falls flat on its face.

It has become clear over the course of this year that some of the early expectations for the vaccines were overstated. Yes, they are effective in greatly reducing the severity of infection for people who do contract Covid, and I’m certainly not seeking to dissuade anyone from taking them. However, they do not prevent people from contracting Covid at all, and nor do they stop them transmitting it. With over 80% of the adult population now double-jabbed, far more of those being hospitalised or dying of Covid are now vaccinated than unvaccinated. So it’s hard to see how passports could be of much value in preventing or restricting the spread of the disease.

The proposals also make no recognition of the role of natural immunity amongst those who have already had Covid, which is said to be considerably stronger than that of vaccination. This strongly suggests that the primary motivation for the scheme is not so much health as control, and a desire to maximise the proportion of the population who are vaccinated. No end point is given, or even any indication of what the criteria would be to discontinue the scheme, which is something that always raises suspicion.

The implementation of the scheme would also bring about severe practical difficulties. This may be relatively simple for nightclubs, which already control entry, but many other types of venue have multiple entry points and would need to recruit additional staff to carry out the checks. The Labour Party Conference that is currently in session has already abandoned mandatory certification in favour of random spot checks because it was proving impractical.

It could also in practice lead to racial discrimination, as a much lower proportion of ethnic minorities have been vaccinated than whites. This primarily results from greater reluctance, not from a failure to make vaccines available. In New York City, the implementation of vaccine passports has been strongly opposed by Black Lives Matter, which no doubt will pose a moral dilemma for some.

The argument will be made that, if you’ve been vaccinated, why should you have anything to worry about? However, many vaccinated people are likely to feel uncomfortable about enjoying events and facilities from which a substantial minority are being excluded. The same is true of business owners, who will be faced with a Devil’s bargain of having to accept something that they feel is morally objectionable in order to stay afloat.

Nightclubs have been the primary focus of discussion on the subject, but in fact the scheme will extend considerably further to cover various kinds of large indoor and outdoor gatherings including, for example, music venues and sports events. So nobody should just say “I never go to nightclubs, I don’t care.” And, while these proposals do not extend to smaller hospitality venues such as pubs, the government have not ruled this out, and indeed Sajid Javid has specifically said it is something that may need to be considered over the winter.

So, in conclusion, vaccine passports would be totalitarian, immoral and ineffective, which raises the question of why the government seem so keen on them. I would say that it falls into the category of “something must be done”. Covid, while no longer an existential crisis (if it ever was), remains a serious ongoing problem and this at least is being seen to be doing something about it, even if in practice it makes little or no difference. This is why they have been enthusiastically taken up by many governments across the world in a kind of wave of mass hysteria rather akin to that which led to a domino effect of competitive lockdowns in the Spring of last year.

There has been a considerable amount of political opposition, at least in England, although it remains to be seen whether the Labour Party will be prepared to stand against the plan if it ever comes to being implemented, or whether they will continue to act as Johnson’s human shield. It’s not going to happen without a fight.

Many organisations, business groups, campaigners and professionals, including a strong contingent from the hospitality industry, have joined forces to sign the Together Declaration against mandatory vaccine passports. If you are concerned by the plans, I’d urge you to add your name to the list. And the pressure group Big Brother Watch have gained a lot of media coverage for their high-profile campaigning on the issue.

23 comments:

  1. Hard to know where to start with such a misleading post :-0
    The vaccine isn't experimental: it is constructed using well established bio-chemistry. That is why the labs were able to produce it so quickly.
    And no one is forced to have the vaccine so it doesn't break the Nuremberg code which is intended to stop the eugenic experiments of the Nazis not to restrict public health issues.
    I also find it curious that both pubs and nightclubs are practically able to restrict entry on the basis of age - examining age verification cards - but find it impracticable to examine vaccine certificates.

    Having said that I agree that such a vaccine passport will do little to contain the spread of the virus. It would be much more effective - though even less easy to implement - to insist that people going into crowed venues demonstrate that they have tested clear CV19.

    And it is worth remembering that our parents put up with far worse restrictions on their "civil liberties" during WWII. And for a far less worthy cause.

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    1. A far less worthy cause? The defeat of Nazism? Are you actually serious?

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    2. I'm not going to dignify that with a detailed response, but you do realise that pubs don't check the age of every customer on the door? In fact, I'd bet many pubs can go days without feeling the need to ID anyone. So the comparison is absurd.

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  2. Vaccine passports in Scotland delayed until October 18th due to legal challenges :-)

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  3. I remain un-convinced about so-called "vaccine passports." On our recent cruise, providing proof of double-vaccination, was a condition of my wife and I boarding the ship.

    We ensured we had both paper and digital copies of our vaccination certificates with us - as issued by the NHS. Having both tested negative, prior to boarding, we were asked to show these certificates, along with our passports.

    After standing in line, the official from the cruise line, gave our certificates a cursory glance, with no attempt to scan them - even though they have a QR code which would have told them all the information they might need.

    Verdict - a total waste of time and little more than a box-ticking exercise.

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  4. Whilst being absolutely opposed to Covid Passports in themselves, I have no trust that this Government or its successor won't allow mission creep and include other criteria deemed 'in the public interest'.

    Once the architecture is built, and (as hoped by the Government) there is an acceptance by citizens of a requirement to prove your status before engaging with civic life, the basis of a social credit system begins. Anyone thinking this is far fetched would do well to recall what else seemed far fetched in February 2020.

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    1. Yes, as I said in the original post that I linked to, the concern is that they would be used as a stepping-stone to a more general digital ID and social credit pass.

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  5. What I have noticed is that there is a strong correlation between people who don't see vacc passports as a problem, want lockdowns, want de facto compulsory jabs by blackmail or coercion, are afraid to start living normally without fear, etc etc, and people who at the minimum would not have minded to a work as concentration camp guards in the 1940's.

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    1. Isn’t this type of statement getting really tired? There are no grounds for this type of statement. Stop the Nazi comparisons.

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    2. The past eighteen months have shown just how willingly people are prepared to acquiesce in the destruction of their liberties, so I would say there is a parallel. They have also provided a textbook demonstration of the process of “othering”, in this case applied to the unvaccinated. I’m sure if a YouGov poll had asked whether the unvaccinated should be put into camps to protect the rest of society, at least a substantial minority would have agreed.

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    3. As is normal with groups that exist in their own echo chamber, and this is getting way too common, you are missing the point of my post. (I'll leave the camp comment aside.) My point is that we don't really have a way of identifying exactly who leans to Nazism yet we throw the term around. Read the book "Ordinary Men" and tell me that it doesn't put doubt into your mind how you would behave under extreme circumstances. I know it put doubt in mine. And my point is using the term loosely in these types of conversations really dilutes what happened and can happen. Any of us can end up behaving horribly and to assume other's views on the vaccine predispose them to Nazism is really puerile.

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    4. I'll add gulag prison camp guards to my earlier comment for equality so there is no need for anyone to be left out.

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    5. I am not missing the point at all. I am not suggesting for a minute that people have adopted actual Nazi or Communist ideology, but the response to Covid clearly shows that the ordinary man or woman in the street will:

      (a) willingly acquiesce in measures leading to the serious erosion of their liberties in the name of public safety, and

      (b) join in an enthusiastic programme of "othering", demonstrated by the visceral hatred directed first at the unmasked and then the unjabbed, often encouraged by people in position of authority who really should know better.

      Of course we are not currently living in an actual to0talitarian state, but we are noticeably nearer to it than we were eighteen months ago.

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    6. You are missing my point. There’s a big difference between supporting restrictions on personal freedoms and Having Nazi tendencies. I replied to this idea which is what the string stated. And I hate to say it but most of the anger and violence I see is from the antimask and antivax supporters. At least that is how it seems in the US.

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    7. 90% of the so-called antivax supporters -like me - are vaccinated -like me. Most of the anger and violence is coming from the people like James Whale on Talkradio, twats painting a picture with a broad brush.

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    8. " 90% of the so-called antivax supporters -like me - are vaccinated -like me."
      How can you be an anti-vaccination supporter if you have agreed to be innoculated? Either you think it's an experimental jab that's dangerous or you don't.
      I'm going to stick my neck out here and say you voted against Brexit.
      Am I right ?

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    9. The problem is that the term "anti-vax" has come to be used to describe people who are opposed to any form of vaccine coercion, not just those who consider the vaccine as such to be dangerous.

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    10. Thurston, I was and am very much in favour of Brexit.

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    11. Damn, that's another promising theory blown out of the water.
      Anyway glad to hear you're still 100% sold on Brexit.I keep on being told that lots of Leavers have changed their minds but I've yet to meet anyway.
      Even better it's still sending those ' leading ' Remainers totally deranged that our country hasn't collapsed and that thousands of migrants are still risking their lives to leave France for the sunlit uplands of the UK. Mind you who could blame them for wanting to leave France.
      I have a new theory by the way.
      Anti-vaxxers as a whole are mad keen cyclists.The type who wear Go-Pros so they can upload the slightest infringement on their personal space by motorists. The BBC is full of them.

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    12. I would have thought there was much more of a correlation between keen cyclists and keen vaxxers. But this has got rather off topic now, so anything more along these lines will be rejected.

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  6. Good for you, PubCurmudgeon. I agree entirely.

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  7. As each person may react differently to any vaccination,all vaccinations are an experiment on the person vaccinated. It is necessary to balance the risk of being vaccinated as against the risk to yourself and others of not being vaccinated,the latter is far greater than the former and vaccination is a sensible course of action. I am against restricting people's freedoms,however,there is also a balance which needs to be struck between freedom and public health and in the same way that proof of vaccination against yellow fever is required in order to travel to some overseas countries and doctors and dentists are required to be vaccinated against hepatitis,proof of vaccination against COVID should be needed to work in the health and care sector. The balance between public health and freedom is tilted the other way when proof of vaccination is required to enter public venues as there appears to be little evidence that public protection as opposed to the unvaccinated individual's protection is increased. It is up to the individual to weigh up the consequences to him of being vaccinated or not in most areas of life.

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  8. We need HIV passports for pubs, so you don't have to sit next to filthy, disease-spreading perverts.

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