Covid Status Certification

Vaccine Passports Back on Table as U.K. Government Seeks Public Views on Winter Plan

The U.K. Government is asking for public feedback on the use of domestic vaccine passports in indoor and outdoor venues if cases threaten to overwhelm the NHS this winter. The “Plan B” proposals could see nightclubs, concert halls, sporting events and outdoor festivals require proof of Covid vaccination status, with the opportunity to add more venues if necessary. The Telegraph has the story.

Ministers last night insisted the Government needed to be prepared to “act swiftly” and adopt measures such as vaccine passports “at short notice” if there were “unsustainable pressures” on the NHS as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Health Minister Maggie Troup said: “While we are totally confident the careful steps we are taking will help rule out the need for mandatory vaccine certificates, we need to be prepared for all scenarios.

“We know these kinds of contingency plans will only work if businesses and the public get to have their say and I’m urging everyone who could have to use certification: give us your views, give us your ideas.”

Industry and the public have been given until October 11th to respond to the planned vaccine passports, which would be mandatory for all adults over 18 attending the prescribed venues, and will require legislation.

Under the plan, only double-vaccinated people would be certified by the passports. Negative Covid tests and proof of natural immunity after recently recovering from the virus would no longer be permitted.

Worth reading in full.

If you don’t want to see vaccine passports introduced this Winter, please respond to the Government’s consultation here.

The Flawed Reasoning Behind Vaccine Passports

We’re publishing an original piece today by a lecturer at a Russell Group university about the poor reasoning of those who advocate for vaccine passports. Here’s an extract in which he draws attention to the use of false dilemmas in an attempt to persuade people to embrace a Covid status certification scheme.

Debates about vaccine passports often involve people experiencing a false dilemma. Consider a professor at the Harvard Law School for whom the alternative to a vaccine passport system is “stay at your home, or don’t come to college, or don’t come to the employer at all”. For those who want to do such extravagant things as go out, continue one’s education, or go to work to earn a wage, there may seem to be no acceptable alternative.

Many people, it seems, see the debate as one between accepting vaccine passports or facing a punishing future of restrictions, social disruption and isolation, and all their social and economic harms – ones that disproportionality impact ethnic and racial minorities. Given just those two options, vaccine passports will doubtless seem the lesser of two evils. But those aren’t the only option: a false dilemma is imposed by obscuring alternative possibilities. Israel, for one, recently announced the early closure of its Green Card system, barely five months after introducing it, due to encouraging case data and vaccine uptake rates. One obvious alternative is therefore to study up-to-date data on cases, hospitalisations, and deaths and weigh these against vaccination rates and plausible collective immunity levels.

We’re often susceptible to false dilemmas: many of us tend to stick to the options given to us. It also takes expertise, research, and exercises of the imagination to identify alternatives. Moreover, many prefer simplified decision-making situations in which there’s a limited set of simple alternatives. Sometimes, artificially simplified options are acceptable: not all false dilemmas concern important topics (what shall I do tonight – watch Netflix or have a bath?). But vaccine passports raise important issues, so we must take more than the usual amounts of care when considering them. If there are other ways to ‘return to normal’, then vaccine passports are not the only way and perhaps not the best way.

Worth reading in full.

Euro 2020 and Wimbledon Matches Used as Pilot Events for New “NHS Covid Pass”

A new “NHS Covid Pass”, showing a user’s vaccine status, as well as recent test results, will be piloted at upcoming Euro 2020 and Wimbledon matches and could later be introduced at a range of other sport and entertainment events, despite the Government deciding against making Covid status certificates compulsory for attendance at mass gatherings. The Mail has the story.

The existing NHS App, which already provides details of a person’s vaccinations, has been modified so that there is an option to enter Covid test results.

Those who have not been double-jabbed will be able to do a lateral flow test at home and then log it on the app. Spot checks will be performed on a small number of spectators arriving at grounds to show they are being truthful about their negative result.

A Whitehall source said… “The NHS Covid Pass will help us to safely unlock capacity crowds at the Euros and Wimbledon and hopefully deliver a fantastic summer of sporting success.” …

Wimbledon and Euro 2020 matches will be used as pilot events as ministers consider whether the NHS Covid Pass should be used more widely.

The Government has ruled out making it compulsory for venues to make people share their coronavirus status. Instead, they are concentrating on giving organisers the option of asking fans to use the NHS Covid Pass so big sporting events can go ahead safely.

All courts at Wimbledon will operate at 50% capacity for most of the tournament, which kicks off in less than two weeks.

Both [only!] the women’s singles final on July 10th and the men’s singles final on July 11th are set to be played in front of full capacity crowds.

Worth reading in full.

Durham University Introduces Covid Status Certificates

A reader has been in touch to tell us that a Covid certification scheme has been introduced at Durham University, where her son is a first-year student. As she asks, is this even legal?

Elder son, First Year student at Durham University, returned on Sunday for summer term. He has been told he needs to do two lateral flow tests per week and must have a negative email confirmation on his phone in order to do “any university activity”. This means that if he wants to participate in the life of the university, as opposed to stay cooped up in his tiny dorm room 24/7, Covid testing is mandatory.

Is this even legal?

He was also told his term has also been extended by one week, into early July, for the “wider university experience”. (Joke.) Is this so the university can broaden its new scheme to include evidence students have been vaccinated in time for when the roll out hits 18 to 30 year-olds? Presumably, the authorities at Durham don’t care that the risks of getting vaccinated outweigh the risks of not being vaccinated for people in his age group.

This academic year he will have had zero face-to-face teaching. There has been no announcement at all about the 2021/22 academic year teaching arrangements, apart from to confirm that maximum fees will be charges, as they were this year. But of course.

I cannot understand why universities, with all their fine minds, are supporting this nonsensical testing regime. Don’t the medical professors read the data on the false positive rates for lateral flow tests? To me, universities have been complicit in damaging UK further education, as well as the health of their communities.

My poor 19 year-old son is desperate to have a more “normal” life again. He could very easily be coerced into doing almost anything to achieve that and will get vaccinated if it means he can get back to university sport and some socialising. This is the second year of woeful education for him, having had his A-levels cancelled in 2020. It fills me with despair.

MEPs Served With Notices of Liability Ahead of Vaccine Passport Vote

There follows a guest post by Oliver May, a staff journalist at a national newspaper group writing under a pseudonym.

MEMBERS of the European Parliament have been told they may be held liable for harm and death caused by the introduction of a Covid certification scheme.

Doctors for Covid Ethics, a group of doctors, scientists and lawyers from around the world, have served MEPs with Notices of Liability advising them that they may be held personally liable should they vote for the implementation of a Digital Green Certificate in the European Parliament next Wednesday.

Many fear vaccine passports will create a two-tier society, with only those able to certify that they’re un-infectious, whether because they’ve been vaccinated, recently tested or have recovered from COVID-19, being allowed to enjoy the freedoms they once had. Some lawyers have expressed concern that this is a form of coercion.

The COVID-19 vaccines are available under an Emergency Use Authorisation and, despite Governments insisting they are “safe and effective”, Doctors for Covid Ethics have expressed concern that the’ve been approved too quickly and the risks associated with being vaccinated for those under-60 with no underlying health conditions may be greater than the risk posed by SARS-CoV-2.

However, any implementation of a Digital Green Certificate scheme means those who have not had a Covid vaccine, and cannot otherwise certify that they’re un-infectious, could be discriminated against and kept out of “normal” society.

Israel has introduced a Green Pass system, which opens up society to everyone who has been vaccinated. Earlier this week, Michael Gove, together with England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam, travelled there to study the Green Pass and discuss its effectiveness with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi.

Gove has repeatedly said the UK Government has “no plans” to introduce vaccine passports, as has Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi. But the UK Government has moved the goalposts over the past few months and, as reported in Lockdown Sceptics on April 20th, multiple jobs are now being advertised in London and Leeds in connection with vaccine passports, with NHSX [the tech arm of the NHS], saying they are: “Developing both digital and non-digital options to enable U.K. residents to assert their Covid status, including both vaccination history and test results.” The advert says applicants must be able “to start with us by Tuesday, May 4th, 2021”.

The European Union believes its version of the vaccine passport will facilitate safe, free movement within the bloc, adding that it is “non-discriminatory”, despite discriminating against those who cannot prove they’re un-infectious.

On March 25th, the European Parliament voted to fast-track the Digital Green Certificate via an emergency procedure by 468 votes to 203, with 16 MEPs abstaining.

Philippe Lamberts, leader of the Greens–European Free Alliance in the European Parliament, warned that the speeding up process could create “considerable distrust” among European citizens. That sentiment was echoed by Liberal MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld, who said that skipping the committee-level process was an “abuse of an emergency situation”.

The notice of liability issued to MEPs by Doctors for Covid Ethics reads as follows:

This Notice of Liability has been SERVED to you personally.

You may be held personally liable for harm and death caused by implementation of the proposal identified as REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on a framework for the issuance, verification and acceptance of interoperable certificates on vaccination, testing and recovery to facilitate free movement during the COVID-19 pandemic (Digital Green Certificate), Brussels, 17.3.2021 COM (2021) 130 final 2021/0068 (COD), which is designed to coerce widespread acceptance of experimental vaccination.

If you take further action supporting such implementation, and if you take no steps to mitigate your past actions supporting such implementation, you may be held personally liable for resulting harm and death…

Furthermore, you may be held personally responsible for supporting CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY, defined as acts that are purposely committed as part of a widespread or systematic policy, directed against civilians, committed in furtherance of state policy.

Please respond to this NOTICE OF LIABILITY within 14 days from the DATE OF SERVICE to: DOCTORS FOR COVID ETHICS

The full letter and a list of its recipients can be found here.

Young People Should Not be Strong-Armed Into Getting Vaccinated

We’re publishing an original piece today by Bella Wallersteiner, a Senior Parliamentary Assistant, setting out the case against trying to induce young people to get the jab by making entry to pubs/clubs/festivals conditional on showing a ‘Covid Status Certificate’. Here is an extract:

After a year in which many young people have lost their jobs, missed out great chunks of the curriculum in schools and universities and were forbidden from seeing their friends, coercing them into taking the jab is a perverse strategy. Altruistic young people worked in food banks, collected medicine and went shopping for elderly neighbours who were shielding or, inspired by the example of Captain Tom Moore, raised funds for the NHS. Instead of receiving praise for demonstrating resilience and kindness, young people are now being maligned for showing ambivalence in coming forward to take a vaccine which may do them harm. More needs to be done to convince them that the vaccine is safe and effective and that the eradication of COVID-19 requires all citizens to join together in an act of solidarity.

Once vaccines for under-30s get the green light, the Government needs to come up with a new social contract for young people. What is the duty of a young person to society? Does a young adult have a moral obligation to protect an older one? The message should be that society is the glue which binds us together in a moral compact which transcends self-interest. By getting the vaccine you are helping the community at large. Young people should want to take the vaccine because they have decided that it is the right thing to do for their own health and for the safety of others. They should not be bullied into taking the vaccine out of fear of becoming second-class citizens or because they will be denied the pleasures of techno, house and trance dance music in clubs. The Government must treat young people like grown-ups and be prepared to have an adult conversation with them. The Prime Minister, who is such an effective communicator, particularly when addressing young people, should deliver a special broadcast specifically targeting UK citizens under 30 who have given up so much over the last year. He should thank them for their solidarity and support and exhort them to make one final collective effort to beat COVID-19 by having the vaccine. If this doesn’t happen, the whole project to eradicate the scourge of coronavirus could stumble at the last fence.

Worth reading in full.

Let’s Show Vaccine Passports For Football Games the Red Card

Yesterday, the Spectator published a piece by me setting out the case against linking the reopening of sports venues to vaccine passports, something I’m particularly concerned about because the one thing I’ve missed more than anything else in the past year is going to QPR games with my son Charlie. Today, I’ve composed a more detailed version of that case. Here’s an extract:

Would it be too much to ask the Government to monitor the risk of allowing sporting venues to reopen in other parts of the world without an accompanying Covid status certification scheme, such as in Texas and Florida?

Better yet, why not just look at the data from the NFL Super Bowl, which took place in Florida on February 7th, at the height of the ‘second wave’? 25,000 fans were admitted, along with 12,000 staff, and even though only a third of fans had been vaccinated at the time, health officials have only found three people who were infected as a result of attending the game. Three in 37,000. Why don’t the clubs tell that to the fans if they’re worried they’ll be too paranoid to come to games if they’re not asked to show vaccine passports at the gate? I reckon most of us will happily take those odds. Three in 37,000 sounds a lot like QPR’s win rate for the last few seasons.

Please do read it in full and forward to your MP.

Let’s Show the Red Card to Vaccine Passports for Football Fans

In today’s Spectator, I’ve set out the case against making sports fans produce a ‘Covid Status Certificates’ as a condition of allowing them into stadiums after May 17th. I’m going to set out the case in full for Lockdown Sceptics tomorrow, but in the meantime here’s an extract from the Spectator article:

The first and most obvious objection is that it’s a breach of my liberty. It’s an inversion of the Common Law principle that everything should be permitted unless the law specifically prohibits it. Under this scheme, I am only allowed to do something if permitted to do so by law, which is the principle underlying the Napoleonic Code. As a freeborn Englishman, I prefer the Common Law tradition, which was one of my reasons for supporting Brexit.

It’s also discriminatory. I don’t just mean it will discriminate against those who haven’t been vaccinated or can’t otherwise demonstrate they are ‘safe’, but against those groups more likely to be suspicious of vaccines and who cannot afford alternative forms of certification. We know that vaccine hesitancy is higher among the UK’s black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi populations. Do we really want to see fewer of these spectators at sporting events? True, there are alternative ways of demonstrating you’re not an infection risk, such as getting a PCR test, but if you don’t want to jump through a lot of hoops they cost a minimum of £120. And an unvaccinated sports fan would have to get it redone before every fixture. For those who’ve had COVID-19, there’s the option of getting an antibody test, but you can’t get those on the NHS unless you work in primary care, social care or education.

In short, if the Government makes entry to sporting venues contingent on having a vaccine passport, it will be discriminating against minorities and the less well-off.

You can read the whole article on the Spectator‘s website.

Stop Press: The Guardian had a story on its front page today saying the Equalities and Human Rights Commission thinks a general certification scheme could fall foul of anti-discrimination law because it would restrict access to essential services for those groups less likely to get vaccinated – including migrants, those from minority ethnic backgrounds and those on low incomes.