Obviously this will reduce trade by denying access to the unvaccinated, but it will also prevent visits by mixed groups, and many vaccinated people will feel unease about a “Papers Please!” regime. It will change the whole dynamic of visiting a pub. At the same time as reducing footfall, it will also increase venues’ costs by requiring them to dedicate staff to door control. Only in the very smallest places will one person be able to combing serving and checking everyone who comes in.
There is also the option of taking a lateral flow test up to 48 hours before the visit, but that turns pubgoing into a planned, premeditated event and rules out the possibility of the spontaneous swift pint. While it does allow for a positive PCR test dating back up to six months, there is no recognition of the long-term existence of Covid antibodies arising from prior infection, which provide far more protection against contracting the virus and passing it on than the vaccines do.
What is more, the measure is being implemented without any proper impact assessment whatsoever. It is entirely possible that in broader terms it will do more harm than good.
DUP First Minister Paul Givan said that this regulation should be put to a vote in the Northern Ireland Assembly before it takes effect. He added: “Whenever we ask questions around the economic impact assessment, none has been carried out. No equality impact assessment; no assessment in terms of human rights legislation and yet, other executive ministers felt they could support a policy that had flaws within that paper, even on the scientific evidence.”Also no time limit or conditions for ending the scheme have been given. How long will it be before the booster jabs are added to the definition of “fully vaccinated”? And then the next booster, and the one after that? And how long before this comes to other parts of UK?
Venues will be placed in the position of being confronted by a Devil’s bargain of having to accede to something that they may feel to be grossly immoral and objectionable or be put out of business.
It’s not as if it’s likely to be effective anyway in curbing the spread of Covid. The past year has shown that, while the vaccines are effective in reducing the severity of infection and the risk of death, they do not prevent people from either contracting the virus or passing it on. They are not the magic bullet that they were first claimed to be. Across Europe at present, many countries are seeing steeply rising infection rates amongst highly vaccinated populations. It fact is possible that they could even exacerbate transmission by encouraging socialising at unlicensed gatherings in private houses.
Even if vaccine passports were an effective means of curbing the spread, that would not of itself justify their introduction. They are inherently divisive and immoral. As the philosopher and economist Friedrich Hayek said, “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.” An absence of forced or coerced medication is a key hallmark of a free society. It is the kind of thing that totalitarian states do. This was put very clearly on Twitter this morning by Dr. Zoe Harcombe:
Covid authoritarianism is certainly leading our society down a very dark path. If you are concerned by this direction of travel, I would urge you to sign the Together Declaration against mandatory vaccine passports, and also give your support to Big Brother Watch, who have gained a lot of media coverage for their high-profile campaigning on the issue.
I wake up each morning and have to pinch myself that I live in a world where anyone thinks it's OK to lock someone in their home & deny them basic human rights because they decline a medical procedure. Whatever procedure that may be and for whatever reason.— Dr Zoe Harcombe, PhD (@zoeharcombe) November 18, 2021