A leaked government report revealed that vaccine passports could aid in the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) as people become more encouraged to visit small, poorly ventilated venues.
The report, which was compiled by the U.K. Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), said that introducing the passport scheme could have the opposite intended effect.
“If certification displaces some fans from structured and well-ventilated sports stadia, this could lead to them attending unstructured and poorly ventilated pubs instead, where they will have access to more alcohol than if there were in the stadia,” the report said. It also cited evidence showing spikes in cases associated with pubs when England teams were playing abroad.
The policy would also slash turnover for the organizers of events that require the use of vaccine passports and necessitate the hiring of thousands of new stewards, which could be difficult.
After Scotland tried to introduce vaccine passports, staff at nightclubs received abuse and the apps kept failing. Eventually, the process was called an “unmitigated disaster.” Many venues decided to close early and lost 40 percent of their footfall, illustrating how the scheme will put nightclubs out for good, especially if they operate on a profit margin of 15 percent.
Further, having vaccine passports mean that there is no longer a need to provide a negative test, even though vaccinated individuals can still transmit the virus.
Vaccine passports not supported by science
The U.K.’s Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) already called for the government earlier this year to abandon unjustified plans of COVID passports as they have not made a scientific case for such action.
COVID-status certification would certify that people are COVID-safe. The government started its review on the idea in March to decide whether or not it could be an appropriate tool to reopen the economy.
In its report, the committee said that the government has so far failed to make a scientific case in favor of the passport system, showing little evidence that the introduction of a COVID-status certification could increase public confidence.
The government also came under fire for their choices on which locations are included in the program. In terms of transmission, small, enclosed spaces where people congregate pose greater risks than events like football matches, which people tend to attend less regularly and are usually out in the open.
However, the government decided to give exemptions to pubs and restaurants, leading to the committee labeling such decision as “largely arbitrary.”
Another concern being brought up is the value of establishing a certification process, given that the cost of doing so relies heavily on the success of the vaccine rollout. The efficacy of the vaccine on new variants will also mean that any potential benefits will only decrease as the number of people currently vaccinated rises. So far, 61 percent of the U.K. population received one dose of the COVID -19 vaccine while 43 percent were fully vaccinated.
Data privacy is another concern as the database for the COVID passports could carry personal information linked to medical records. It can be open to hacking. (Related: Canadians will be required to present COVID vaccine passport when traveling by air, sea or train.)
“We recognize the need to formulate an effective lockdown exit, but COVID passports are not the answer. We are entirely unconvinced by the case for their introduction. Although it is a tool that is being sold as and built with the intention of being for the universal good, it has the potential to cause great damage socially and economically,” PACAC chair William Wragg said.
He also said that the success of the vaccine rollout and their efficacy calls into question the value of certification as it would establish a great cost for rapidly diminishing returns. “Frankly, the government needs to scrap any idea of introducing COVID passports. They are unnecessary and there is no justification for them in the science and none in logic,” he said.
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