Vaccine Passports

Poll Finds That 58% of the British Public Back Vaccine Passports

According to a recent poll, if the Government were to introduce ‘Plan B’ restrictions, 58% of the British public would support vaccine passport measures that would prohibit the unvaccinated from attending certain venues, such as restaurants. In addition, 33% back an Austria-style lockdown of the unvaccinated. The Sunday Times has the story.

Perhaps the real question is: has Britain made up its mind? For all the talk of ‘following the data’, Covid curbs are political decisions. And there is growing evidence that tougher Covid rules would not sit comfortably with the public.

At the start of the pandemic just 13% of people would rather protect the economy than limit the spread of the virus. By last week that was 36%.

At the same time, the number wanting to limit the spread has fallen from 74% to 42%. Despite weeks of headlines of NHS pressures, the gap between the two has shrunk since September.

“As Europe brings in Covid restrictions and some argue for the U.K. to follow, the British public are responding with something of a shrug and are broadly content with the status quo,” said James Johnson, who carried out the polling for Kekst CNC.

If Johnson did decide to introduce ‘Plan B’, it might not be unpopular: 58% would support banning unvaccinated people from bars, restaurants and other public venues unless they had a negative test. Yet Britain would draw the line at Austria-style measures, with just 33% wanting to lock down the unjabbed.

Amid rising European rates, the British public remains optimistic: 48% expect the NHS to cope well this winter, compared with 41% who say it will do badly. That could change if admissions surge, but with each booster shot, a winter of discontent becomes less likely.

Worth reading in full.

Directory of Businesses Against Vaccine Passports

Anna Brees, the former BBC journalist and alt media personality, has helped to create a directory of businesses in the U.K. and Ireland opposed to vaccine passports. It’s very easy to use – you just type in your postcode and it brings up a list of businesses near you that are opposed to the introduction of a Covid certification scheme. If you’re a business owner, you can also ask to be included in the directory.

Cinema & Co., the Welsh independent movie theatre that has been ordered to close because it refuses to exclude customers who haven’t been vaccinated, has now raised over £56,000 via a crowdfunder.

Stop Press: The Australian division of ALDI, the German supermarket chain, has sent a letter to all its employees telling them they’ll be fired if they’re not double jabbed by March 1st 2022. Only a matter of time before ALDI does the same in the U.K.?

Scotland Urged to Abandon Vaccine Passports After Research Showing Vaccinated Just as Infectious as Unvaccinated

Deputy First Minister of Scotland John Swinney is under pressure to scrap vaccine passports after a new Oxford study found the double-jabbed are just as likely to pass on Covid to unvaccinated people. The Times has more.

The effectiveness of vaccines in curbing transmission – particularly with AstraZeneca doses – wanes over time, according to a study that appears to undermine the reasoning behind new laws requiring proof of vaccination to enter football grounds and nightclubs.

It comes as the Deputy First Minister said customers may now be required to show a negative Covid test as well as a vaccine certificate before being allowed to attend more indoor venues including pubs, restaurants, gyms and cafés.

However, this “theoretical option” has prompted a backlash from pubs and restaurants who claim they face “an avalanche of cancellations” if approved.

Revelations about the reduced effectiveness of vaccines after 12 weeks was highlighted in research led by the Nuffield Department of Medicine, based at the University of Oxford, which co-developed the AstraZeneca vaccine.

It found vaccinated people were almost as infectious as the unvaccinated 12 weeks after their second AstraZeneca jab.

The paper stated: “Transmission reductions declined over time since second vaccination, for Delta reaching similar levels to unvaccinated individuals by 12 weeks for [AstraZeneca] and attenuating substantially for [Pfizer-BioNTech]. Protection from vaccination in contacts also declined in the three months after second vaccination.”

The paper echoes research in the Lancet last month which found “the vaccine effect on reducing transmission is minimal in the context of Delta variant circulation”.

Swinney acknowledged the research but pledged to press on with vaccine passports in clubs and sports stadiums, and continue to consult businesses on expanding them to other settings.

Worth reading in full.

German Leaders to Debate Imposing National Restrictions On The Unvaccinated

On Thursday, German officials are set to debate whether to tighten Covid restrictions after Germany recorded an infection peak on Saturday. One of the measures to be discussed involves banning the unvaccinated from venues such as restaurants, bars and entertainment venues, with Chancellor Angela Merkel urging members of the public to get jabbed if they haven’t already. The Telegraph has the story.

These rules have been adopted in some states, but as yet have not been enforced nationwide. 

Horst Seehofer, the Interior Minister, on Saturday morning said it was the time to put in place nationally uniform Covid rules.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called upon the country’s unvaccinated to reconsider, hinting that the Government would tighten measures across the country. 

“Difficult weeks lie ahead of us, and you can see that I am very worried,” Merkel warned in her weekly video podcast.

“I urgently ask everyone who has not yet been vaccinated: please reconsider.”

She added: “It has always helped us when states and the Federal Government worked together and committed to uniform rules.”

Germany’s nationwide seven-day Covid incidence rate climbed to 277.4 per 100,000 people on Saturday, the highest on record. The previous mark was 197.6, recorded in December 2020.

Seehofer, said on Saturday that politicians needed to “demonstrate the art of governance” when meeting on Thursday by making one set of rules for the entire country to stop confusing people with changing rules. 

“I very much hope that there will be a nationwide regulation next week. We must no longer confuse the population,” he told the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper.

“Vaccination centres open, vaccination centres closed, continued payment of wages in (for people forced to) quarantine yes, then no again, testing free of charge, testing subject to charge.

“In terms of party politics, there is nothing for anyone to gain, but a lot for everyone to lose. There can be no fundamental opposition in such a difficult situation.”

The situation is particularly precarious in the southern states of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg and the country’s former east, where ICU capacity is below 10%.

Worth reading in full.

Russian Oblast Considers Prohibiting the Unvaccinated From Buying Alcohol

Sverdlovsk Oblast, a province in central Russia, is considering whether to ban the unvaccinated from purchasing alcohol to prevent the spread of Covid in the region. If this was to become law, citizens of Sverdlovsk Oblast will need to provide a valid QR code showing that they have been jabbed (a system that has been put in place elsewhere in Russia) before being allowed to buy alcohol. The MailOnline has the story.

In a new move from local authorities, the nation stereotypically known to enjoy a tipple may have to prove they’ve had a shot of the vaccine before getting a shot of vodka. 

Artyom Bakhterev, the Regional Minister of the Agro-Industrial Complex, announced the update through its Telegram channels.

He said: “We know about the initiative of market participants to enter QR codes for buying alcohol.

“We are ready to discuss this measure with colleagues and experts at the next meeting of the operational headquarters.”

It was originally proposed by restaurateur Yevgeny Uryupin from Yekaterinburg, a city in the oblast, on his Instagram, Vesti.ru reported. 

He said that the initiative could encourage people to get vaccinated and motivate them to consume less alcohol. 

Since October 18th many areas in the country imposed restrictions to deal with a growing Covid crisis through a QR code system. 

In many places public venues are now only open to those who are vaccinated, have a negative coronavirus test or have recently recovered from Covid.

Only those who show a QR code proving they meet the criteria are allowed to enter.

Worth reading in full.

Covid Infections Surge in Europe

A late autumn surge in reported Covid infections is underway in Europe, with spikes in Austria, Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland and Norway, and the possible beginnings of one in France, Portugal and Italy. This is despite high vaccine coverage and the heavy use of vaccine passports in most of these countries including Germany, Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, Italy and France.

Some of this is at least partly a result of ramping up testing, especially in Austria and Denmark.

Denmark’s positive test rate is currently flat (see below). This is despite the country declaring the pandemic over and abandoning vaccine passports in September. However, due to the climbing reported infection rate, the country’s Parliament is now said to be preparing to return to a state of emergency and reactivate the vaccine pass scheme, despite the rise being so far largely an artefact of increased testing.

Elsewhere, however, the positive rate is also rising, suggesting real Covid and not just a testing artefact.

Postcard From Genoa

We’re publishing a new Postcard today by Roger Watson, a Professor of Nursing at the University of Hull. He’s just back from a teaching stint at the University of Genoa and did not have a happy time. Here is an extract:

If anyone who is unvaccinated is considering visiting Italy soon, I would strongly advise against it. Britain seems very civilised in comparison, despite having a run in with a BA official who questioned me about my lack of a mask on leaving the first class lounge in Heathrow, seemingly unaware that we were still on British soil. But, as reported in a Postcard from Istanbul, once the curtain was drawn behind us in BA Club Class, the masks were off and not donned again until arrival in Milan. From Milan I took the train to Genoa to work at the University of Genoa, where I teach regularly, for a week. It is worth noting that I completed the European Passenger Location Form using details from my British passport but, to avoid the queue at the border, I used my Irish passport to enter Italy. I expected to be questioned about the lack of congruence between this passport and the one used to complete the online form which, I assumed, would have to match at immigration. I was through like the proverbial dose of pesto thus indicating, beyond reasonable doubt, that the completion and submission of passenger location forms is a complete waste of time.

You may enter Italy unvaccinated after the requisite Covid tests and then a period of quarantine. But, thereafter, freedom does not beckon as, wherever you step out of quarantine, you will remain… indefinitely. No form of public transport such as trains, buses and internal flights is permitted without displaying a euphemistically named ‘Green Pass’ (Italy’s vaccine passport). If anyone from the U.K. wants to see what the introduction of vaccine passports will be like, then Italy is already there. Mask wearing is strongly enforced on public transport with repeated ‘mascherina’ messages over the PA system.

Social distancing is requested too but the one exception was taxis where, ironically, you can be squeezed into very close proximity with your fellow passengers without the benefit of any social distancing. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that passengers are not allowed to travel in the front of the taxi beside the driver, so it was common for three people to be arse cheek by jowl in the back. On one journey I was asked to mask up in a taxi that had no functioning seat belt.

Worth reading in full.

Sajid Javid Refuses to Rule Out Use of France-Style Vaccine Passports For Those Who Refuse the Booster Shot

The Health Secretary has refused to rule out the possibility of adopting a France-style vaccine passport system, which entails receiving the booster shot in order to be labelled as ‘fully vaccinated’. In a recent interview with Sky News, Javid couldn’t say for certain whether the scheme wouldn’t be introduced “potentially in the future”. If such a policy were to become law, it would mean that those who are offered the booster shot (such as those over the age of 65 years-old) but refuse, would be denied entry to certain venues. The Independent has the story.

Asked if making a third jab part of a Covid pass is “something that you might look at”, Javid replied: “We’re not looking at that yet.

“I think, in due course, we will have to look at what constitutes vaccination, but at this point the most important thing is that anyone that’s eligible gets out there and gets their booster.”

Pressed on whether the curb could be introduced “potentially in the future”, the Health Secretary told Sky News: “I can’t rule that out.

“We know now that the vaccines do wane and it’s important that, where it’s necessary, that those people get a top up. I think it’s something that we have to keep under review.”

Covid passes have been introduced in Wales, and are now being extended to cinemas and theatres, while Scotland requires proof of double vaccination for crowded venues.

A similar plan was shelved in England, but is part of the Government’s ‘Plan B’ should Covid hospitalisations and deaths rise sharply over the winter.

If introduced, it would require proof of vaccination for “indoor crowded settings with 500 or more attendees such as music venues or large receptions”, including all nightclubs.

The events would be those where people “are likely to be in close proximity to people from other households”, the winter plan set out.

“Outdoor, crowded settings with 4,000 or more attendees” and “any settings with 10,000 or more attendees, such as large sports and music stadia”, including top football matches, would also be covered.

Worth reading in full.

Scottish Government Considers Extending Vaccine Passports to Cafes and Pubs

John Swinney, the SNP Deputy First Minister, has admitted that the Scottish Government is considering widening the use of its vaccine passport scheme, so that it encompasses more leisure venues including pubs, cafes, cinemas and theatres in an attempt to thwart a Christmas surge in Covid cases. At the moment, only those wishing to enter a nightclub or large venue need to provide proof that they are double vaccinated. The Telegraph has the story.

Swinney also said ministers were looking at extending the use of face masks and clamping down on workers heading back to the office, ahead of a formal review of restrictions that will be unveiled next week.

In the clearest signal yet that the Scottish Government will introduce a winter clampdown, he told MSPs that the options would be discussed with business leaders in the coming days.

Swinney argued that tightening up such “baseline protective measures” was the best way to “head off any prospect of future lockdowns”.

Although he admitted that the number of people hospitalised with Covid had declined by almost 20% over the past week, he argued previous trends suggested “the spread of the virus could, very quickly, increase again during the coming weeks, perhaps over the Christmas period”.

But Paul Waterson, Spokesman for the Scottish Licenced Trade Association, said vaccine passports could spell the “death knell” for lucrative Christmas parties. Many pubs have been relying on them for a boost to their incomes after more than a year of turmoil.

Dr. Liz Cameron, Chief Executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, warned that extending vaccine passports would be a “massive backwards step” at a “pivotal moment” in the country’s Covid recovery. Leon Thompson, Executive Director of the trade body UKHospitality Scotland, said: “The extension of this poorly conceived and badly executed policy has the potential to destroy many businesses that are already struggling.”

Douglas Ross, the Scottish Tory leader, highlighted the Deputy First Minister’s testimony to a Holyrood inquiry last week, in which he admitted there was no evidence to show vaccine passports had reduced the spread of Covid.

Mr Swinney argued it was impossible to prove a specific restriction caused a decline in Covid rates but Ross said: “It’s a mind-boggling way to make policy. They’re inventing it on the hoof.”

The Deputy First Minister disclosed that he and his colleagues were considering whether to allow people who have not been double vaccinated to access affected premises if they instead provide proof of a negative test.

But he was challenged over how premises such as cafes would be expected to enforce a vaccine passport scheme when they do not have staff at their entrances.

Since the start of October, adults have had to prove they are double vaccinated to enter nightclubs and other late-night venues with music and dancing, or attend large events such as football matches and concerts.

Worth reading in full.

Big Brother Watch Launches Legal Challenge Against Covid Passports in Wales

The campaign group Big Brother Watch has launched a legal challenge against mandatory Covid passes in Wales, calling for the “authoritarian, invasive and unevidenced” scheme to be scrapped. The group’s website has more.

The non-profit group’s legal challenge comes as the Welsh government is extending domestic requirements for Covid passes for people to access cinemas and theatres, as well as nightclubs, concerts, and larger events. Big Brother Watch joined local businesses in criticising the expansion, calling it “safety theatre that does nothing for public health but unfairly burdens businesses and excludes citizens”.

Big Brother Watch’s pre-action letter, sent to the Welsh government today, maintains that no evidence has been provided that the mandatory use of Covid passes will benefit the public health and that the “disproportionate” scheme breaches the right to privacy, protected by the Human Rights Act.

In particular, Big Brother Watch draws attention to advice from SAGE and the Welsh Technical Advisory Cell issued before the introduction of mandatory Covid passes to Wales, which outlined risks of the scheme causing ethical issues and unintended harms such as vaccine distrust and warned that there may be no net benefit to a scheme. Furthermore, the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee in Westminster analysed Covid certification in detail and concluded that there is “no justification for them in the science and none in logic”.

However, First Minister Mark Drakeford pushed ahead with the scheme following a snap vote in October, which was narrowly won despite unanimous rejection by opposition parties.

Big Brother Watch is leading the campaign against mandatory Covid passes across the UK, and is backed by thousands of members of the public who have collectively raised over £170,000 via Crowdfunder to support the campaign. 83 MPs and 11 rights groups have signed Big Brother Watch’s pledge against mandatory Covid passes to date.

Silkie Carlo, Big Brother Watch’s Director, says: “Covid passes are internal health passports that are authoritarian, invasive and unevidenced.

“Covid IDs don’t tell you that a person doesn’t have Covid or can’t spread Covid, but do make society less free and less accessible for people.

“Within weeks, this mandatory health ID scheme has already been significantly expanded in absence of an evidence base. This is safety theatre that does nothing for public health but unfairly burdens businesses and excludes citizens.

“There are far more proportionate, effective and inclusive measures to keep people safe and get the country back to normal than excluding healthy people without the right health papers from society. But we can never get back to anything like normal with health ID checks that will inevitably continue to expand.

“We urge the Welsh government to scrap these divisive and discriminatory Covid passes. If they don’t, we will seek to make our case in court.”

Worth reading in full.