Over 126,000 people in the UK have signed a petition calling on their government not to rollout COVID-19 vaccine passports, less than one month from the date it was initiated on 20 January 2021. Typically, the UK parliament debates every petition which receives more than 100,000 signatures. However, on 13 January 2021, the House of Commons agreed a motion put forward by Tory MP and Leader of the House Jacob Rees Mogg which temporarily suspended sittings in Westminster Hall and sitting on Fridays.
"We want the Government to commit to not rolling out any e-vaccination status/immunity passport to the British public. Such passports could be used to restrict the rights of people who have refused a Covid-19 vaccine, which would be unacceptable", the petition says.
Big Brother Watch: COVID-19 Passports to Move Around the UK is 'Dangerously Irrational' and 'Draconian'
Civil liberties group Big Brother Watch has come out strongly against vaccine passports describing them as an authoritarian and draconian response to the current pandemic.
On 14 February, UK Foreign Minister Dominic Raab, speaking to LBC radio, implied that requiring people to have a COVID-19 passport in order to enter a supermarket "hasn't been ruled out".
Q: Will you need “a domestic vaccine passport to go into a supermarket”?— Big Brother Watch (@BigBrotherWatch) February 14, 2021
A: “It’s something that hasn’t been ruled out, it’s under consideration” - @DominicRaab
A dangerously irrational and draconian response from one of the highest offices of state.
Former Tory health minister Stephen Hammond told talkRadio on 15 February that a form of COVID-19 passport will become a fact of life "whether the government regulates it or not", as places like pubs and restaurants seek to encourage more people into their businesses.
"I think market forces will be so strong that people will need to show that they've had that vaccine", Hammond said.
Stephen Hammond, former health minister, tells Julia Covid passports are "going to happen, whether the Government regulates it or not."— talkRADIO (@talkRADIO) February 15, 2021
Watch talkRADIO live ► https://t.co/38QrdgGEXV@JuliaHB1 | @S_Hammond pic.twitter.com/BYKO0fs9NO
There is evidence that such "market forces" are already having an effect, with the UK's main financial district reportedly introducing the idea of COVID-19 passports to get employees back into the office starting in March.
City firms will introduce vaccination passports from next month as part of a return-to-work drive by Covid-19 testing firm Prenetics, led in the U.K. by @lasarowa, which will provide health screening to more than 100 companies. https://t.co/zZvo1WvMoB— Harriet Dennys (@harriet_dennys) February 15, 2021
Meanwhile, sociology professor Robert Dingwall, who specialises on the intersection of law, medicine, science and technology and has advised the government on the COVID-19 response, was critical of the idea of needing COVID-19 passports for internal travel.
"The whole idea of a vaccine is that it protects you, it doesn't tell you anything significant about the risk you are presenting to another person", Dingwall told talkRADIO on 15 February. "You can be sitting next to somebody who is coughing and spluttering on a bus, and provided you've had the vaccine the only risk to you really is of a mild infection", he added.
Whilst some countries may require some form of certificate in order to travel, depending on how "risk averse" their respective governments are, "the idea that you have to have a passport to go around Tesco, I think, is just ludicrous and I very much hope that wiser counsels would prevail", Dingwall said.
Government Covid adviser Robert Dingwall tells Julia he "can't see the point" of introducing vaccine passports: "The idea you have to have a passport to go around Tesco is just ludicrous."— talkRADIO (@talkRADIO) February 15, 2021
Watch talkRADIO live ► https://t.co/38QrdgGEXV@JuliaHB1 | @rwjdingwall pic.twitter.com/dczw8p6bhD
Tony Blair: COVID-19 Passports Inside and Outside the UK are "Inevitable"
Two days earlier, on 13 February, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair argued on Radio 4's Week in Westminster programme that the COVID-19 pandemic should be viewed as a "national security issue", and that if common standards are developed worldwide and done a "vast scale" then states are, "going to need the technology that allows you to do it digitally”.
Blair called immunity passports "inevitable".
Silkie Carlo, Big Brother Watch's director, responded to Blair's arguments during a separate Radio 4 programme saying that he had "very little moral authority to talk on these issues", especially given his role in pushing the failed biometric ID cards programme that was widely rejected by the British public.
"Let’s be very cautious of language like 'inevitability'", Carlo said, "which is often used by people with power to tell people without power what they’re going to have”.
"Vaccine passports would be discriminatory, they would be coercive, they would almost certainly lead to authoritarian identity systems", Carlo argued.
Tomorrow, Tony Blair will be in the press telling us that digital vaccine passports are "inevitable".— Big Brother Watch (@BigBrotherWatch) February 12, 2021
It's a lie. A future of digital authoritarianism and discrimination is anything but inevitable.
Our director @silkiecarlo explained why on @BBCRadio4 PM this evening ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/YqLzpowEBG
UK Public Divided on the Matter of COVID-19 Passports
COVID-19 passports have split public opinion, with social media being replete with posts on the subject:
My first job out of law school was with @DHSgov nearly 10 yrs post 9/11. All of the "emergency" infrastructure was still in place.— Elizabeth M. (@hackylawyER) February 12, 2021
We risk the same happening with #COVID if we accept myths of inevitability including re #ImmunityPassports.
Here are some resources on the risks.
If the vaccine doesn't admittedly stop you catching the virus *or* spreading the virus, what's the point of vaccination passports? Literally doesn't make any sense.🤔 pic.twitter.com/TBbIjQ7X1x— Sack The Bawbag Board (@SackTheBawbags) February 14, 2021
High profile endorsements of the rollout include former Tory Chancellor George Osborne and morning news anchor Piers Morgan:
Absolutely right! When you travel to countries where there is a risk of hepatitis, rabies, yellow fever, you get jabs, and need evidence of them on entry to the country.— Bently L.F. Creswell (@BentlyCreswell) February 9, 2021
Nothing different with Covid. To protect the liberty of as many as possible, we have to accept this limit.
Love the idea of covid vaccine passports for everywhere: flights, restaurants, clubs, football, gyms, shops etc.— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) February 14, 2021
It’s time covid-denying, anti-vaxxer loonies had their bullsh*t bluff called & bar themselves from going anywhere that responsible citizens go.
The number of signatories to the petition increases every minute, and, at the current rate, is calculated to surpass 200,000 supporters by the end of 15 February, alone.