On Friday of last week, I joined the ranks of over 30 million of my fellow UK citizens by having my first Covid 19 vaccination. I was proud to have the Oxford AstraZeneca administered to me in a pharmacy in my local town of Coalville. However, the syringe had barely been withdrawn from my arm when another announcement, or what can more accurately be described as a Government inspired leak was all across the media.

It is well-known fact that the ship of Government is the only ship that leaks from the top, and apparently having been injected with a vaccine was going to get me special privileges, such as being able to go to the pub. This filled me with dread rather than the euphoria and gratitude the originator of the leak was undoubtedly hoping for.

I took the vaccine to protect myself and the wider community from the Covid 19 virus, not to gain entitlement over those who have not taken it or the many under the age of 40 who have not yet been offered the jab.

I am quite comfortable with the concept that other countries may decide to place the condition of proof of vaccination on UK citizens wishing to visit their country, that’s their choice and not unusual, as several countries around the world already require proof of vaccination for certain transmissible diseases such as Yellow Fever. However, this is a far cry from a UK citizen being asked to show evidence of vaccination before being allowed entry into a public house or restaurant in their own country.

My public objection to the implementation of domestic vaccine passports is based on my concerns regarding proportionality, risk and as always with legislation, unintended consequences.

My inbox on this topic has been a mixed bag, to those who wish to wholeheartedly embrace the concept of domestic vaccine passports, I would say, think about where this is taking us and how it will be administered?

The hospitality industry has already been taken to the brink of extinction by the lockdowns, to place this responsibility on them will cause them more costs, and make them almost certainly responsible for the implementation of the Government policy and probably under threat of criminal prosecution if they fail. The system would have to be policed to be enforced, either by the local police or another arm of the state such as local Government officials such as the covid enforcement officers many have recently employed.

I had never ever considered in my worst nightmares a situation where a British citizen could be enjoying a drink in a British pub or a meal in a restaurant and be asked to produce their papers entitling them to be there by an agent of the state. Civil liberties and freedoms were won over centuries and should not be given away lightly, even if the Government claims they will be suspended on a temporary basis.

Income tax was introduced in the UK as a ‘temporary measure’ to pay for the Napoleonic Wars and that was over 200 years ago. As of last month’s payslip, I notice that income tax is still with us. To many people who have been desperately worn down by the lockdowns, it appears that they would be willing to accept freedom at any price?

Are these draconian measures actually necessary?

The infection rate and the number of hospitalizations continue to fall as the vaccine roll-out continues. The NHS has been protected and all the elderly and vulnerable groups have been offered the vaccine, and very high percentages of these groups have taken them up. We are now told by the Government’s own scientists that we will have to live with Covid in the future as we do with the flu, our advice with the flu is if you have symptoms stay at home.

If introduced, the domestic vaccine passports risk creating a two-tier society, an underclass of those who are unvaccinated for whatever reason, some of whom will be unable to be vaccinated due to their own medical condition or perhaps because they are pregnant. This would therefore be a very divisive measure and been seen by the minority of vaccine-hesitant citizens as an act of state coercion. I believe this would be counter-productive and the conspiracy theorists, who are having a good pandemic, would have a field day.

I would like to assure you that neither I nor the vast majority of my fellow UK citizens subscribes to the notion that “ I have had the vaccine and so I am alright Jack!”.

In 2004 writing as a Conservative MP Boris Johnson declared in the Daily Telegraph” If I am ever asked, on the streets of London or in any other venue, public or private, to produce my ID card as evidence that I am who I say I am, when I have done nothing wrong and when I am simply ambling along breathing God’s fresh air like any other freeborn Englishman, then I will take that card out of my wallet and physically eat it in the presence of whatever emanation of the state has demanded that I produce it.”

I agree with Boris.

People might want to live in a country where no one dies of Covid 19, which is impossible for any Government to guarantee, but in trying to achieve this, we risk creating an unbearable society where no one is allowed to live. Fear is a prison and the only real freedom is freedom from fear. 

***

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Andrew Bridgen

Andrew Bridgen is a Conservative MP for North West Leicestershire.

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