Soon, we will have to show vaccine passports to pass through covid checkpoints placed outside workplaces, football grounds, theatres and pubs. Until recently, we only needed to flash a passport when we entered a foreign country. Now, it seems, that the outside world will become foreign to us, unless we can prove that we’ve had the jab.
When we leave the house, it will feel like we’re going on a little adventure. Will we be stopped? Has my lateral flow test result registered on my app? Will we all get into the pub? Vaccine checks might add some spice to a Friday night pub crawl. Will some of our mates be exposed as vaccine renegades and ordered onto the street by covid bouncers? Will drug dealers develop a lucrative trade selling negative saliva swabs to youngsters queueing to get into night clubs? ‘Sorry mate, your name’s not on the list’ will be replaced by ’That looks like a dodgy NHS number to me’.
Perhaps the vaccine passport could be expanded to become a general ‘safety app’. We could take twice weekly tests for colds and flu and flash our ‘infectious disease status’ to friends before we risk shaking hands, kiss or embrace. The app could record our cholesterol levels and present our ‘heart disease risk level’, so that our friends can avoid buying a dangerous round of drinks. Waiters could scan everyone’s apps and provide low-cholesterol menus to those at risk and suggest ‘healthier options’ to those who mistakenly try to order a pudding . Young people could undergo regular STD checks and gonorreah marshals could check their status before they go into bars. Couples could carry out criminal record searches on each other to ensure that they are not flirting with someone unsavoury. If apps can make us safe, why not use them to eliminate risk entirely?
People, when left to their own devices, make decisions that put themselves, and others at risk. For too long, we have been burdened with the responsibility of deciding how we should live our lives and the government has reneged on its responsibility of managing risk on our behalf. If the Covid crisis has taught us one thing, it is that the task of government is to keep us safe, by making decisions for us.
Forward-thinking civil servants are applying technology to this problem. If decision making can be entirely removed from individuals, AI algorithms could ensure that we never make mistakes again. Perhaps they will start by matching medical data with CCTV facial scanning technology, so that people can be filtered on the street, in real time. Those who have not been jabbed, could be herded into a vaccination pens made from converted bus stops. Responsible citizens will be left to go about their daily business safe from the recklessness of others. Those who refuse to take the needle will be instructed to stick a test swab up their nose, for punishment.
Matt Hancock has said that he is ‘not attracted to the idea of vaccine passports here, we are not a papers-carrying country.’ So, he has renamed it using a far more attractive term – the ‘vaccine certificate’. And, there will be no need to carry any papers, because the certificate will be in an app.
Vaccine minister, Nadhim Zahawi, may have said ‘We have absolutely no plans for vaccine passporting,’ but did he misspeak? Perhaps he meant to say ‘We have absolutely no plans, policies or money, so we’re going to introduce vaccine passports to keep this pandemic going for as long as we can get away with it.’ Boris Johnson said that he is ‘mindful of the many concerns regarding exclusion, discrimination and privacy.’ Perhaps Boris means that he has developed a meditative ‘mindfulness’ that enables him to hold contradictory thoughts in his head and yet feel at peace with the world. The libertine libertarian is now mindful and goes with the (lateral) flow (test).
Boris is thinking beyond Covid towards his legacy. He left London strewn with ‘Boris Bikes’ and he has mooted a ‘Boris bridge’ connecting Britain and Ireland. ‘Boris Borders’ has a certain ring to it and would help him complete the hat trick.