MPs right to stand up against Covid vaccine passports plan to turn us into bar-code Britain: Jayne Dowle

If Covid vaccines are as effective as Matt Hancock says they are, why do we need a passport to prove we’ve had the jab in our arm? That’s my argument and at the last count more than 70 MPs, including Tories Iain Duncan Smith, a former party leader, and senior politician Esther McVey, agreed with me.

A West Ham United fans scans a track and trace code in December 2020. Picture: PA

They are forming an interesting cross-party Westminster coalition, also counting Labour left-wingers Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott amongst their number, opposing vaccine passports and calling on the Prime Minister to at the very least hold a Commons’ vote on what is a huge infringement of civil liberties.

Their rightful call to democracy could already be outpaced. It’s reported that NHSX, a joint unit between the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England and NHS Improvement, is urgently recruiting civil servants for jobs in Leeds and London, “developing both digital and non-digital options to enable UK residents to assert their Covid status, including both vaccination history and test results”.

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It’s an immediate start, May 4, just a week today. Funny then that Mr Johnson is still talking about the “potential role of Covid status certification” when a major government quango appears to already be beavering away on a scheme.

Presumably it’s gearing up to his lieutenant Michael Gove’s announcement on the great leap forward into so-called normality. This is expected to be shared with the waiting public in time for the planned further easing of social distancing measures on May 17. I’m no mad conspiracy theorist, but am I right in thinking that nothing seems to join up here? Can it really only be a few short months ago – February – that vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi earnestly informed the BBC’s Andrew Marr that Covid passports would be “discriminatory”?

He said that it wasn’t clear what impact they would have on transmission of the virus, and that people could talk to their doctor if they needed written evidence to travel. My question is, given the fact that more than 33m people in the UK have now had the first dose of a vaccine, and more than 11m have received two, thus completing their treatment – what’s changed?

Why are people being recruited to work on the roll-out of a passport scheme when more than 44m vaccines have been administered. And above all, why do we need even passports within the UK if we’ve been vaccinated?

I can see the justification for proof of vaccine status when travelling abroad. If we are to once again enjoy the freedoms of foreign travel and avoid lengthy and costly quarantine arrangements, it’s the pill we have to swallow.

However, I have caveats here too. So far, I’ve heard nothing about the situation regarding under-18s. Are they even on the list to be vaccinated? I have a 15-year-old daughter in general good health, so not in any priority category. Should we be able to venture abroad this summer, we wouldn’t dream of going without her. If anyone can answer that, please get in touch.

But proof of vaccine status and a negative lateral flow test?

The wary say that the vaccinated can still transmit Covid to the unvaccinated. However, this argument will surely eventually fizzle out, because by July the plan is to offer all adults a vaccination. For children and under-18s, who knows? And for pregnant women, who are now eligible for the vaccine but face a tough dilemma on whether to take it, presumably they have to stay locked up in old-fashioned confinement for the duration if they refuse it?

However, if you are safe to do so and haven’t taken up the hugely well-publicised opportunity of a vaccine by the summer, surely it really is your own responsibility if you end up contracting Covid?

Sorry to sound harsh, but some of us wrestled mentally with the idea for weeks and worried about potential side effects and the haste in which the roll-out had been conceived and wondered, quite correctly, if it was the right thing to do.

Now I’ve done it and got my second jab marked on the calendar for June 13, I don’t really accept that I need an app on my phone to gain access to a coffee shop or a theatre. What’s happened to the official message, accompanied by much televised jubilation back in December, that “vaccine means freedom”? Now we’re back to creeping around whispering “you can’t be too careful”.

I don’t know about you, but this state-promoted hypochondria makes me very sad. Have you seen that official Government TV commercial in which a worried middle-aged woman angsts over having a couple of friends round in her back garden? Really? Is this what we have become?

We’ve followed the rules for more than a year now, succumbed to travel bans and been unable to see or even touch our loved ones. I thought that the UK was still a land where liberty was cherished above all, but I fear it may rapidly become a world in which the bar-code rules.

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