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Health and Nutrition Last Updated: Jul 29, 2021 - 12:08:19 AM

Vaccine Passports Are A Step On The Road To Hell
By Tim Stanley
Jul 29, 2021 - 12:05:32 AM

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Tim Stanley
The Telegraph
Mon, 26 Jul 2021

Vaccine symbols© Nakako Shiotsuki

I had my second jab on Saturday, and as I walked into the vaccination centre, the enthusiastic girl on the front desk handed me a mask and told me to put it on. "What if I'm exempt?" I asked.

"Are you?"

"Say I was, would you stop me from coming in without a mask?"

"You'd need a lanyard," by which I think she meant an exemption card attached to a lanyard. "No lanyard, must wear a mask."

Surely, she was wrong? According to the Government's own website, "there is no longer a legal requirement to wear face coverings in indoor settings" and, even if it is expected, "you do not need to show ... any written evidence or a card".

It's a testament to our national confusion that even the virtuous citizen manning a vaccination centre might not know the rules, but what if I were an elderly person, or someone with learning difficulties, who showed up without a lanyard and couldn't wear a mask, would she have refused me entrance and thus denied me a vaccine? That strikes me as discriminatory and quite mad, but then the direction of this whole enterprise isn't protection against death but the regulation of daily life. The latest step towards Hell is the vaccine passport.

Supporters say they will only be at nightclubs and large venues, like stadiums, and temporary to boot, but the Government ruled out even creating them several times before - and if we have learnt anything it's that what seems unimaginable one week is public policy the next. Ergo, it's very silly to shrug and say "well, they're only for nightclubs and I haven't been to one since Wham", because what is logically applicable to something you don't care about - a medium-sized venue where crowds gather - is applicable to something you do.

It was noticed that when Nadhim Zahawi, in the Commons on July 22, listed locations that would be exempt from passports, he did not include places of worship. A priest called me to say that not only would he regard this as an appalling invasion of religious liberty but as a vaccine refusenik himself, on the grounds that some vaccines are feared to have a historic link to abortion, he would be banned from saying Mass in his own church.

Who would police the mosques or the synagogues? If someone refuses to show a passport and makes a mad dash for the pews, is Fr McCarthy supposed to pin him down while Sister Perpetua telephones the police? Churches attract the very groups one can see vaccine passports being a logistical problem for, namely the disabled and the elderly, and the bureaucratic assumptions behind showing papers, electronic or physical, are naive and disturbing.

After I got my jab, I asked the doctor how I was meant to show proof of having had it. "Do you own a smartphone?" he asked cheerfully. I do, I felt like saying, but since the lockdown, I have learnt it's best to turn it off and leave it at home.

Isn't it astonishing how something that was an accessory about 10 years ago - basically a phone with a camera - has become a necessity, almost a requirement? It has rendered technophobes like my mother, who every time she tries to make a phone call takes a photograph of her knees, a virtual non-citizen.

The selling point is convenience, which modern man thinks is a synonym for freedom, but it absolutely ain't, as a recent horror story in the United States demonstrates. A Catholic newsletter, The Pillar, accused a prominent cleric of being a regular user of the gay hook-up app Grindr, presumably breaking his vows. He resigned his post, but even some conservatives regarded his sin as a second order issue when they discovered how The Pillar says it uncovered his activities - via "commercially available records of app signal data".

In layman's language, the newsletter purchased information related to the priest's phone usage. I never thought this possible; apparently in America, it very much is.

The technological revolution has offered us a simulacrum of freedom while also creating the basis for surveillance and, inevitably, control, all the while softening us up by popularising the idea that data is something we share, which I think is one explanation for those polls showing that the public is all for continued social restrictions.

Life has become an open book. When the Stasi listened in on private conversations at the height of the Cold War, it was a key element of Western identity that we found this repugnant, yet nowadays our personal details, from qualifications to relationship status, are found easily online, and data is traded in the marketplace. While we denounce China as an authoritarian state, we differ only by degree and method.

The UK Government is thinking of launching a smartphone app that will reward citizens for exercising and shopping healthily with discounts, free tickets etc, a calorie-lite version of the Chinese social credit system. A good citizen used to be someone who voted and paid their taxes. Now we are expected to finish our vegetables, too.

China punishes what it regards as bad behaviour; we reward the good. But we are still in the business of sorting good from bad, healthy from sick, compliant from troublesome.

Comment: Killing us softly, our freedom - our soul.

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