Tuesday, March 30, 2021

God Help Us If You Succumb To A Publicly Issued And Privately Enforced National Vaccination ID

Guardian |  God, I miss the pub. I miss pushing through the door and diving into a pool of sound, all chatter and laughter and sport on the telly. I miss the sight of people’s faces, friendly and relaxed and a bit flushed. I miss finding friends gathered around a table, bantering and gossiping, pausing only to place their order when I ask if anyone needs a drink. I miss weaving through the crowd, taking care not to spill pints or drop crisp packets, catching a flirty glance from a stranger out of the corner of my eye.

What I would give to go to the pub this evening and talk with my friends about everything and nothing. Since many of us work in technology, at some point the government’s “vaccine passports for the pub” plan would come up.

I’d say it is dumb. They would tell me that, no, I am the one who is dumb. We’d hash it out, order another round and set the world to rights. Sadly, it’s a conversation we won’t be having. We’re in lockdown. None of us has tasted a proper pint in months. We’ve had to debate what the prime minister, Boris Johnson, has called “papers for pints” over WhatsApp and FaceTime while sitting at home and walking in the park.

The good news is that pubs open for outdoor service from 12 April and for indoor service from 17 May. The bad news is that Johnson’s “papers for pints” plan is essentially a national ID card by stealth, one that would link our identity to our Covid status – whether we’ve been vaccinated, had a recent negative test or have antibodies.

The UK has already toyed with national ID cards. It rejected them in 2010. As Theresa May, then home secretary, explained in 2010: “This isn’t just about cost savings, it’s actually about the principle, it’s about getting the balance right between national security and civil liberties, and that’s what the new coalition government is doing.”

That was before coronavirus, of course, but just because we’re in a pandemic doesn’t mean that we stop caring about that balance.

Already, the Conservatives have announced plans to introduce a bill to make photo ID mandatory from 2023 for all UK-wide and English elections. There’s no obvious need for it: there was only one conviction for “personation” fraud in the UK in 2019.