Vaccine Passports

South Africa Brings in Restrictions to Combat New Variants – But is the ‘Wave’ Already Running Out of Steam?

South Africa has ramped up its restrictions again in response to the recent reported rise in infections associated with new subvariants Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 as the southerly country heads into winter.

South Africa never lifted its mask mandate and, though the mandate was due to end this week, has now extended it. It never lifted it despite the country skipping the Omicron BA.2 wave and having low infection levels for months, its original Omicron wave being much smaller than in other countries (see below) and the variant anyway being considerably milder and posing no threat.

No-Vaxx Djokovic to Play at Wimbledon as Tennis Relaxes Covid Rules

Novak Djokovic will be free to defend his Wimbledon title after the All England Club confirmed Covid vaccinations will not be needed to compete in this year’s Championships. He will also be allowed to play in Paris. MailOnline has more.

There are no plans for any coronavirus restrictions this time after two disrupted years of the London Grand Slam.

Twenty-time Slam winner Djokovic, who has made clear he is not vaccinated against the virus, was barred from playing at the Australian Open back in January and booted out of the country by the Government.

Djokovic, 34, will also be able to compete at the French Open after organisers in Paris dropped all Covid restrictions.

The Serbian has won the Wimbledon men’s singles title six times, including last year when he defeated Italian Matteo Berretini in straight sets. 

The 2020 Wimbledon Championships was cancelled amid the pandemic, while the 2021 edition took place in front of restricted crowds up until the semi-finals.

This year’s tournament will take place between June 27th and July 10th.

Credit to Novak for standing his ground despite huge pressure to conform with unreasonable medical demands. Hopefully this will be the end of impediments put in his way, and the wider movement towards the removal of all discriminatory measures against the unvaccinated will continue apace.

Worth reading in full.

Why Vaccine Passports and Digital IDs Will Mean the End of Privacy and Personal Freedom

The following is an extract from Nick Corbishley’s new book Scanned: Why Vaccine Passports and Digital IDs Will Mean the End of Privacy and Personal Freedom and is reprinted with permission from the publisher.

When the European Union launched its Green Pass initiative in June 2021, it was supposedly intended to reopen the bloc’s borders and make international tourism possible once again. But within months it was being used by many Member States to exclude unvaccinated people from accessing many public spaces and basic services. Italy’s government has used its iteration of the Green Pass to effectively ban almost four million people from being able to earn a living. In Austria the government locked down around two million people for not being vaccinated, before relenting five days later and locking down everyone else.

This has happened despite the fact that the EU’s own Green Pass legislation stipulates that “[t]he issuance of [Covid] certificates… should not lead to discrimination on the basis of the possession of a specific category of certificate.” The Council of Europe, Europe’s preeminent human rights organisation, went even further, arguing not only that no one should be “discriminated against for not having been vaccinated” but also that the vaccination should not be mandatory.

To complement its Green Pass, the EU has already launched a digital wallet that will be used to store peoples’ surnames, first names, dates and place of birth, gender or nationality, as well as enable Europeans to identify themselves online. This is part and parcel of the digital identity revolution being spearheaded by organisations like the World Economic Forum, Gavi, and ID2020.

New Zealand Axes Vaccine Passports and Mandates Claiming Herd Immunity

Vaccine passports for domestic purposes are being axed in New Zealand, with mandates being removed in almost all industries, though not health and social care. Sky News has more.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the changes on Wednesday as she unveiled the country’s post-Omicron peak plan. 

Ms Ardern said cases had decreased significantly in Auckland, with a decline expected across the nation by early April. 

She added there had been more than 500,000 reported cases of COVID-19 in the country of five million, although “expert modellers say there have probably been 1.7 million actual infections”.

“That figure, coupled with 95% of New Zealanders being fully vaccinated, means we now have a high level of collective immunity,” Ms Ardern said. 

“New Zealanders have worked incredibly hard to get through this pandemic and as a result of those efforts we are now in a position to move forward and change the way we do things.

“First up we have simplified the COVID-19 Protection Framework to target restrictions at those activities that reduce transmission the most.”

As part of the sweeping changes, New Zealanders will no longer have to prove they are vaccinated to enter venues covered under My Vaccine Pass from early next month.  

“From April 4th, My Vaccine Pass will no longer be required by the Government meaning Kiwis will no longer have to be vaccinated in order to enter those venues covered by the Pass,” Ms Ardern said.

“Scanning in requirements for the vaccinated will also end. We recognise that some businesses, events or venues may still choose to use vaccine passes, so we will maintain the infrastructure for them.”

Changes to the vaccine mandates – which had sparked protests outside parliament in Wellington – will come into effect from the same date, with only some workforces still required to be vaccinated. 

“From April 4th, vaccine mandates will be removed, except for health and disability, aged care, corrections and border workforces,” Ms Ardern said. 

“Like many other countries we are retaining a small number of mandates targeted at keeping our COVID-19 frontline staff safe and to ensure our most vulnerable, like those in aged care facilities or those with disabilities, are protected from the virus. 

Baby steps from the Toothy Tyrant.

Worth reading in full.

The Countries That, Like the U.K., Have Ditched Covid Travel Rules

As the U.K. ends its remaining Covid travel rules and restrictions, the Telegraph takes a look at other countries that got there first and to where U.K. citizens can now travel in the normal pre-pandemic way (just be sure to pick an airline and airport without mask requirements).

The U.K. and its airlines are not alone in peeling back the layers of Covid bureaucracy. While the vast majority of countries have some form of Covid red tape in place, from outright border closures (China, Japan) to vaccine certificates (Italy, Greece) to tests the day before travel (USA), there are five nations – all within a three-and-a-half hour flight from London – which have scrapped all Covid measures.

The first to do so was Norway. On February 12th this year, our Nordic neighbours lifted all Covid restrictions (although some do remain in the Arctic exclave of Svalbard). Since British Airways operates flights to Oslo from London Heathrow, this means that an entirely restriction- and mask-free holiday is possible. If you test positive while in Norway, you will be advised to stay at home, although as in the U.K., this is a recommendation and not the law.

Further north, Iceland has also dropped all of its restrictions. On February 25th, Iceland announced that all visitors are welcome regardless of vaccination status, with no obligation to take a PCR test to board a plane there, and no locator forms. British Airways operates flights from London Heathrow to Reykjavik, and maskless Jet2 run services to Iceland from U.K. airports, too, some of which (like Manchester) do not have mandatory mask rules in place.

Closer to home, Ireland dropped almost all of its legal Covid restrictions on February 28th. However, the Irish public health bodies still recommend people wear face masks on public transport, so you might see some remnants of the pandemic while out and about. Again, British Airways operates flights from Heathrow to Dublin, paving the way for an entirely hassle-free holiday.

On the Continent, there are two countries that have dropped all Covid restrictions. Hungary dropped its vaccination requirement, Covid certificates and face mask rules on March 7th. You can fly in from Heathrow with British Airways, meaning an entirely mask-free holiday. You can also fly to Budapest with Jet2, although these are via Leeds Bradford which still demands a face covering to enter the airport, though this could change by the time you fly. Romania, too, has dropped all Covid requirements on March 9th, and British Airways operates direct flights from London Heathrow.

Some destinations are close to making the cut for the restriction-free league of nations. As of February 9th, Sweden has been without any domestic Covid rules, as it was for much of the pandemic, although it still has a vaccination entry requirement in place. Slovenia also dropped most Covid regulations on February 21st, although you still need to wear face masks in some public spaces and complete a Passenger Locator Form on entry. Mexico, too, has no vaccination or testing requirements, but you must register your arrival on the Mexico Vuela Seguro Platform. Our list of the 22 countries that unvaccinated people can visit is a good starting point, if you are looking for a hassle-free holiday.

Worth reading in full.

Covid Travel Restrictions Expected to be Axed in Days

All remaining U.K. Covid travel restrictions could be scrapped in days under plans being considered by ministers. The Mail has more.

The deeply unpopular passenger locator forms are expected to be ditched at a scheduled committee meeting of Cabinet ministers next week. They will also consider dropping testing for unvaccinated passengers. 

The plans would bring back frictionless travel for the first time since the start of the pandemic – just in time for the busy Easter holidays next month.

The ravaged travel industry hailed the prospect of the remaining restrictions being abolished. As it stands, only fully vaccinated arrivals can enter the U.K. without the need for tests. But they must fill in a passenger locator form within 72 hours of travel, sharing their address, phone number, passport and flight details. 

The forms were launched two years ago – when arrivals had to quarantine at home – to help check if travellers were following the rules.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has been pushing to scrap them in time for Easter.

Belgium is scrapping its own form on Friday while Greece is ditching its version next week.

Unvaccinated U.K. arrivals currently have to take a rapid pre-departure test within 48 hours of travel and a costly PCR swab by day two. However, next week’s ‘Covid-O’ (Covid Operations) meeting could be postponed due to events in Ukraine, and health officials will need to be won over.

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary said scrapping the passenger locator form was long overdue. He told the Daily Mail: “It’s a shambles. They should ditch it, it’s completely irrelevant. Nobody collects them, nobody checks them or follows up on them. They were designed to pretend that the politicians were doing something to protect people.”

What are they waiting for? Let’s hope the meeting is not delayed and they drop them all.

Worth reading in full.

People’s Convoy Protesting Against Vaccine Mandates Circles Washington D.C. and Promises to Cause Travel Chaos Until Demands Are Met

The 30-mile-long People’s Convoy is circling the Washington D.C. Beltway in protest at “unconstitutional” coronavirus restrictions, such as mask and vaccine mandates. MailOnline has more.

The self-styled freedom convoy departed from the speedway in Hagerstown, Maryland Sunday morning on a journey to parade the 64-mile highway surrounding the capital city.

“Hold the line,” organiser Brian Brase told the crowd of drivers before they headed out, instructing them to stay with the protest. 

“I beg of you to stay with the convoy. I beg of you to stay with the convoy and then come back down here, meet again and talk about our next plan.’

Brase, who was met with applause, added: “We are not going to sit idly by. We are going to continue to press forward with our mission, but we are also going to do so with some diplomacy to show that we are not unreasonable and willing to talk, but also flex our muscle if you do not hear us.”

The group plans to circle the Beltway twice – a route that should take about four to five hours. Drivers were reminded to maintain safe distances, speeds of approximately 40 to 50 miles per hour and to be mindful of possible rainy weather conditions.

The convoy is reportedly cooperating with state and local law enforcement and does not plan to cause havoc in the area. Authorities had previously voiced concerns that the trucker protest could result in chaos similar to the January 6th Capitol riot.

Brase told the Washington Post Friday night that the group would continue its route around the Beltway each day this week, clogging one of the main arteries into DC until the group’s demands are met. However, as of Saturday morning, he indicated that plans will be determined day-by-day. 

Another organiser did not rule out the trucks honking their horns along Pennsylvania Avenue. 

“I can tell you now that there will be select trucks going to the White House,” organiser Dan Fitzgerald revealed on his Friday morning livestream. “I don’t want people thinking we are invading D.C. This is not the convoy going into D.C. commons. This is a few select drivers.”

“Today, we decided that we are going to go on to the Beltway,” Brase said to the crowd of cheering supporters Sunday morning in Hagerstown.

“We are going to do this peacefully, we’re going to do this with some class. We’re going to do this the way that we’ve done it coming all the way across the country. We’re not going to shut anything down today. We’re just going to do a convoy so that they can see that we’re in their backyard and that we are huge.”

The People’s Convoy – a spinoff from a protest in Canada started by truckers upset at vaccine requirements to cross the Canadian border – travelled from southern California nearly 2,500 miles to D.C. on an 11-day journey. The group stopped in major U.S. cities and rural towns along they way, holding rallies and meeting with their supporters. …

The People’s Convoy – which has raised more than $1.6 million in donations made through its own website – is demanding that President Joe Biden end the national emergency originally declared at the start of the pandemic, as well as scrap any remaining coronavirus mandates.

The truckers allege the Government has infringed upon their constitutional rights with the mandates. 

While many states are currently lifting Covid requirements, there are still 19 with vaccine mandates of various kinds in effect, and the Federal Government is refusing to end the national state of emergency. A recent effort by the Senate to end the pandemic state of emergency was thwarted by the Democrat-controlled House and the President. So more pressure it appears is required.

Worth reading in full.

Justin Trudeau’s Approval Ratings Slump Over Authoritarian Response to Freedom Convoy Trucker Protests

Justin Trudeau, the Canadian Prime Minister, has seen his approval ratings plummet amid criticism of his handling of the trucker protests, including bringing in controversial emergency legislation. The Telegraph has the story.

Ottawa, the nation’s capital, was brought to a standstill for three weeks and road borders with the U.S. were clogged up as hundreds of truckers blocked streets and highways in protest at vaccine mandates.

The chaos ended only when Mr. Trudeau enacted emergency powers not used by a Prime Minister in more than 50 years and dozens of people were arrested.

Nearly half of Canadians said that their impressions of Mr. Trudeau have worsened over his response to the convoy, according to one poll, while another said a majority of people thought that his words and actions inflamed the situation.

A Nanos Research survey found that 47% of Canadians said their impressions of Mr. Trudeau worsened over his Government’s response to the demonstrations, while only 20% said theirs improved.

Nik Nanos, a pollster, said in an interview with The Globe and Mail newspaper: “What’s clear from the survey is that even though Canadians generally support what the Prime Minister has done, his personal brand has taken a hit as a result of the truckers’ convoy protest. There’s no political windfall for Justin Trudeau coming out of implementing the Emergencies Act.”

Another survey by the Angus Reid Institute, a British Columbia-based polling organisation, revealed that 65% of respondents polled in February thought Mr Trudeau’s remarks targeting protesters worsened an already tense situation.

When the protests started, Mr Trudeau called the group a “fringe minority” that held “unacceptable views”.

Last autumn, he angered protesters further by saying that some of those fiercely opposed to vaccination are “often misogynist, often racist, too. It’s a small group but takes up space”.

It seems you can’t go full Stalin in Canada and expect the voters to reward you. Given the numerous opinion polls in many countries over the last couple of years suggesting majorities in favour of draconian restrictions and penalties for the unvaccinated – encouraging leaders like Trudeau, Macron and Ardern to bring in ever more extreme policies – it’s welcome to find a poll chastening one of them for overreach.

Worth reading in full.

When it Comes to Managing the Pandemic, is Australia Bottom of the International League Table?

We’re publishing a guest post this morning by Steve Waterson, Commercial Editor of the Australian. He is concerned that a myth is quickly growing in Australia that the country managed the pandemic rather well. As he points out, that’s only true if you ignore the curfews, the house arrest, no visitors, toilet paper battles, five-kilometre limits, an hour a day of exercise, closed borders, internationally and internally, closed pubs, restaurants, shops, parks, gyms, beaches and golf courses.

At a Sydney restaurant last month I found myself sitting next to a woman I’d never met before, the wife of one of the other guests.

We’d already endured the unattractive, passive-aggressive, American-style formulation of “I need you to check in”, from one of the staff, who then “needed” us to wear a mask for the five metres and six seconds between the entrance and our table.

My old-man mutterings about a time when people began such requests with “Would you mind …” or “Could I trouble you to …” were interrupted by my cheery new dining companion. “You shouldn’t really be complaining,” she smiled. “Australia has done better than anywhere else in handling the pandemic.”

Heroically resisting the urge to up-end the table, I made a few polite observations in response, until my wife gave me her “nobody needs another rant from you” look and piloted the conversation into more tranquil waters.

It’s barely two years since the Covid lunacy first infected us, but already its history is being rewritten. In newspaper columns and on television, opinion-laden pundits are patting the enforcers and the obedient on the back, reassuring themselves with this dazzling myth that we managed our pandemic with admirable wisdom and efficiency.

Lacklustre politicians are understandably keen to embrace and promote this view, starting with the Prime Minister’s mantra that we “saved 30,000 lives”. Did we, though? Figures emerging from the few places that didn’t impose life-changing restrictions on their populations suggest they made next to no difference.

At best we tacked an extra couple of months on to the lives of some very old people in nursing homes, then immediately cancelled whatever benefit that afforded them by turning their last weeks into a lonely, bewildering, miserable slide towards the grave when they were forbidden to see family and friends and were attended by carers dressed like astronauts. They’re mostly dead by now, but I trust they slipped away with a message of gratitude on their lips.

France to Scrap Vaccine Passports and Mask Mandates – Well, Almost, It is France

Rules requiring people to show a COVID-19 vaccine passport to access venues and to wear a face mask indoors will be lifted in France on March 14th – 11 days time – French Prime Minister Jean Castex has said.

“The health situation is improving,” Castex told TF1 television on Thursday.

In a remarkable stroke of luck for the Government, the rules are being lifted about a month before the presidential election.

Masks will however still be required on public transport, and vaccine passes required to access elderly care homes. They couldn’t possibly let go of them entirely.

Has Macron decided the unvaccinated are adequately “pissed off” now? Has sufficient punishment been meted out to the obstinate and recalcitrant? It appears so. For now.