It looks like Great Britain is going to follow in the path of the United States, Israel and other nations that have begun dividing their societies into two classes of people based on their COVID immunity status. With the soccer championships coming up and plenty of Brits itching to get back out to music concerts or simply hitting the pubs, officials have established a system of digital and hard-copy “coronavirus status certifications” that will be tested at several upcoming events at a variety of indoor and outdoor venues in the coming weeks. The plan hasn’t been finalized yet, but Parliament is working on the details already. They can call their passports whatever they like, but the bottom line works out to the same thing. If you don’t have one, you’ll be staying home. (Associated Press)
Britain is planning to test a series of measures including “coronavirus status certifications” over the coming weeks to see if they can allow people to safely return to mass gatherings at sports arenas, nightclubs and concerts.
People attending a range of events, including conferences and soccer’s FA Cup, will need to be tested both before and after. The trials will also gather evidence on how ventilation and different approaches to social distancing could enable large events to go ahead.
Officials are also developing plans to trial COVID-19 passports that are expected to show if a person has received a vaccine, has recently tested negative for the virus, or has some immunity due to having tested positive in the previous six months.
While the Health Ministry has apparently somehow gotten Prime Minister Boris Johnson to tentatively go along with this, the proposal is meeting some significant resistance, particularly among members of his Conservative Party. For the time being, BoJo is stressing that these are only test runs of the new system and nobody is being locked out of anything yet. He is quoted as saying, “We are doing everything we can to enable the reopening of our country so people can return to the events, travel and other things they love as safely as possible, and these reviews will play an important role in allowing this to happen.”
But Conservative Party PM Michael Gove (who was on the committee assigned to draw up these plans) has already released a statement saying that these passports are not a done deal. He described them as “raising a host of practical and ethical questions which need to be resolved before any wider rollout.” It sounds as if Parliament is already getting an earful from its constituents.
At this point, the UK has managed to get roughly 47% of its population to the point where they’ve had at least one shot of the vaccine, with nearly 5 million reaching fully vaccinated status. That means that more than 35 million people will be ineligible for a passport, though they may be able to obtain a temporary pass for a few days by providing a negative COVID test result. People who have already had the disease and recovered may also become eligible later, but officials are still wrestling with how that can be proven in an efficient manner without compromising the privacy of people’s medical records.
Based on the comments being made by both Johnson and various MPs, the reason they are doing this is rather obvious. The Brits are looking to lift their international travel restrictions and trim down the list of countries that are currently under travel bans for all but British citizens returning from overseas. (And even then they have to be quarantined.) Their tourist industry has really been taking it on the chin and the economy is still in the dumps.
At the same time, thousands of people in London have been showing up each week to protest the lockdowns and demand that society be reopened. Hundreds of people have been arrested. Much as in many parts of the United States, it appears that many of the Brits are simply done with all of these restrictions that were imposed in the name of controlling the virus and want their lives to return to normal. It’s kind of hard to blame them, isn’t it?