The claim that a dark and heaving nightclub delivers the perfect breeding ground for Covid isn't particularly contentious. Lots of people packed tightly together, snogging, singing and shouting in a confined space with poor ventilation is perhaps the Department of Health's worst nightmare. Now, if you want to keep clubbing in Britain, the government expects you to be double jabbed by the end of September.
But on July 19th, we were promised our freedom. After all those months of sacrifice and social isolation, we were assured that the creeping hand of authoritarianism had been swatted firmly away. We were told that the vaccines work, though even if they didn't and we were doomed to spend the rest of our existence battling an endemic virus, any case for the continuation of restrictions would still be enormously arduous to defend. We are not a papers-carrying country, after all.
In this charming property-owning democracy of ours, a nightclub should of course be free to demand vaccine certificates for entry. However, our government should never have the legal right to order such venues (or quite frankly any venue) introduce mandatory conditions for access. This is an issue of ownership, and last time I checked Britain is not a command economy.
Setting aside the flagrant illiberal-ism for a moment, it is hard to understand why a negative test will no longer be the standard option open for venues to request as a pre-requisite for guest entry to the most crowded of events. While vaccines are effective in dulling Covid symptoms and preventing the serious illness which leads to hospitalisation, they are not capable of terminating transmission altogether. This does beg the question of why the government is hell-bent on introducing a policy that fundamentally doesn't work. A digital confirmation of one's vaccination status will not stop the spread of this virus.
This sort of mistake is a recurrent and unfortunate theme of Boris Johnson's tenure. Take the recent 'junk food ad ban', a masterful strategy cooked up by the Department of Health with the aim of curbing childhood obesity. From 2023, adverts for products deemed to be high in fat, salt or sugar will be prohibited on television, unless between the hours of 9 pm and 5.30 am, and banned at all times online, unless promoted via the manufacturer or brand's own blogs, websites and social media channels.
Given the amount of exertion clearly put in to make this nanny-statist horror happen, it's a real shame that the government's own impact assessment shows this advertisement ban would reduce a child's caloric intake by just 635 calories per year. It is simply inexplicable to press on with a policy that fails one's own in-house cost-benefit analysis, and yet that is what this government is perpetually doing. Consumer choice is being decimated, market forces are being disrupted...and yet the principal challenge at hand remains blissfully unfixed.
In the case of domestic vaccine passports, and by extension getting vaccinated in general, there is a derived, but fatal flaw in the logic. Inoculation, much like face masks, has been repeatedly treated as some sort of public service. An act performed for the greater good. Yet we now know that though vaccines do a great job at protecting ourselves, in their inability to stop transmission they don't do a great deal for those with whom we cross paths. While I concede the government should maintain the authority to constrain individual behaviour when it threatens others, intervening to protect individuals from themselves ought to remain totally out of its remit.
Full disclosure, I'm double-vaxxed. It was a personal choice; one made for me and by me. Some of my friends, family and colleagues are decidedly not. That is their personal choice; one made for themselves and by themselves. In response to these individual choices, the government has sought fit to create a medical apartheid between the vaxxed and the unvaxxed in order to coerce the latter cohort into succumbing. But there's no such thing as a coerced choice.
Urging young people to get jabbed to protect themselves from a virus that poses them (relatively) little risk to begin with was never going to be easy. But to make participation in daily life contingent on one's health status is not what fair, free and open societies do. For half a century we have encouraged the rest of the world to build sturdy liberal and democratic pillars. Why have we allowed ours to crumble?