Domestic Covid passports unnecessary
The Workers’ Party of Britain is opposed to the mandatory use of identity card documents, or digital applications, linked to personal medical information, in this instance Covid status, either by proof of vaccination or recent test results.
While the use of testing or vaccination status for overseas travel will be a matter for mutual agreement between states, the proposed use of a ‘Covid passports’ to travel freely within Britain, or enter civic life as the lockdown is lifted (attend gyms, leisure centres, schools, pubs, clubs, sporting events, or work) would be both ineffective as a measure to combat the pandemic, and highly personally intrusive.
Covid passports will particularly impact the young and working-age population, many of whom are at low risk from Covid and may quite legitimately decide that they do not wish to be vaccinated, given the rapid time-line of vaccine development, and their personal risk-benefit calculation.
The proposed enforcement of domestic Covid ‘passports’ (identity cards) would therefore compound the injustices already meted out to the economically most marginalised sections of society, who are most likely to refuse vaccination, by criminalising the victims of an increasingly unjust and unequal society, and depriving the poorest of such work and leisure they are able to access and enjoy.
There is widespread anger among the British working class at the handling of the 2020-21 Covid pandemic by the British government, which has been guided throughout, in the words of Prime minister Boris Johnson, by “Capitalism and greed!”
The catastrophic handling of the pandemic by Johnson’s government includes:
1. Failure to use health protection and non-pharmaceutical measures to protect the public, resulting in at least two clear waves of mass Covid infection and around 150,000 avoidable deaths, preferring instead to adopt a laissez-faire policy summarised by Dominic Cummings as “Herd immunity, protect the economy, and if a few pensioners die – so be it”.
2. This ideological orientation and contempt for the lives of workers was further compounded by 40 years of government policy leading to chronic under-capacity in acute medical and intensive care beds (and all the necessary staffing and equipment that provision entails), destruction of NHS planning and public health functions, the internal NHS market, privatisation and outsourcing of NHS services and failing to respond to the findings of the 2016 operation Cygnus (led by Jeremy Hunt) that demonstrated Britain’s health system was totally unprepared for the likely eventuality of a respiratory pandemic.
3. The government failed entirely to mobilise the health, scientific and economic resources of the country to save lives. Our resource-starved NHS was overwhelmed, forcing the country into serial lockdowns, in which the most economically marginalised suffered most.
4. Following the world stock market collapse of Black Monday (9th March 2020), and Black Thursday (12th March), which triggered the beginning of a global economic depression, the British Government channelled hundreds of billions of pounds of state funding to private business interests (with the greatest share received by the wealthiest), while the poorest sections of the working class are now unable to obtain the necessary financial and medical support even to isolate when they were diagnosed with Covid. The latest budget indicates that it is the working class who will be asked to repay the ‘Covid’ bail-out, predicted to total as much as £800bn over the course of 2-3 years.
5. Throughout the entire year of disruption, we have witnessed a circus of government corruption and cronyism, with emergency ‘Covid’ legislation used to prevent any scrutiny or tendering of eye-watering government contracts. Having failed to secure adequate supplies of PPE and ventilators, £6bn was squandered on inadequate PPE, with hundreds of millions being awarded to firms with no experience other than governmental connections; £45bn was spent on a totally ineffectual test, track and trace system, overseen by Tory grandee Dido Harding, and entirely bypassing the NHS. Hundreds of billions have been spent bailing out big business interests. Matt Hancock has used his ministerial position to benefit personal associates, including passing tens of millions to his pub landlord. Serco, Deloitte, KPMG, Lighthouse laboratories, and a host of other private firms have scored record windfalls from the public purse, all at the cost of the NHS, and the lives of pandemic victims.
6. The Lex Greensill scandal has shown the extent of corruption of our entire political system at governmental level. Cameron was given a potential £30 million-worth of share options by Greensill to offer him access to the present government, including Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak, Matt Hancock, Sir Simon Stevens (Chief executive of NHS England), Dido Harding (Test, track and trace) and top civil servant Bill Crothers. This access was used to award preferential contracts for financial services potentially netting Greensill billions of pounds return at taxpayers’ expense. Cameron directly petitioned Sunak for hundreds of millions in ‘Covid relief’ to bail out his failing firm. Greensill’s financial manipulation gambling losses, aided and abetted by both this Conservative administration and the previous one, will likely have a significant impact on remaining British industries, including Liberty Steel.
7. Meanwhile unemployment is rising, and the ‘economically inactive’ portion of the British workforce may rise as high as 33 percent. Homelessness is blighting the lives of 5 million British workers. School children, shut out of school for much of the year, have regressed in their educational level. Record numbers of our children live in food insecurity, with over a million children malnourished, yet our government cannot raise itself from the mire of its own sleaze to notice, or offer even the sop of free school meals to ensure their nutrition and normal biological development that would allow them to concentrate on their education.
Given these egregious and deplorable facts, witnessed by all, it is little wonder that trust in the government, and our compliant media, is at an all-time low.
The one light at the end of this sombre tunnel of mismanagement and greed, is that Britain’s vaccination program, administered by the NHS, has been a relative success. More than half the population have been immunised with at least one dose, and the most elderly and vulnerable have in the main received their second dose of vaccine.
It is this elderly and vulnerable portion of the population who have been most affected by the pandemic, and among whom the majority of deaths have occurred. Their vaccination is the principal reason that Covid infection rates, mortality rates, and hospitalisation rates are falling away (even as India, Brazil, Europe and South Africa are experiencing a peak of infections and deaths in devastating third waves of disease) and we able to return to ‘normal life’, to the extent that the economic crisis makes that possible.
A. It therefore makes little scientific or medical sense to ask people to carry documents proving their immunisation status, just as the immunisation programme has protected the vulnerable and actually is achieving treatment-mediated herd immunity within the population.
B. The most economically marginalised sections of society have had the highest rates of Covid, and also the highest rates of vaccine scepticism. Persuasion is needed for them to take up vaccination, where medically indicated, and in the patient’s best interest, rather than coercion.
C. The youngest groups (under thirties) may very reasonably choose not to be vaccinated at all given their personal risk-benefit equation of Covid versus treatment. It would be antithetical to good medical practice to force a treatment that is not likely to be greatly beneficial upon an unwilling patient, or conversely remove civil liberties for refusing a treatment that can reasonably argued is not necessary.
D. Covid passports, then, are in reality identity cards. As a proposed measure of population control, like so many other policies (further privatisation of the NHS, deregulation of planning procedures, bailing out big business, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, clamping down on citizen rights of demonstration, reducing the rights to due legal process, trial by jury, habeas corpus, etc.), cannot be attributed to ‘reasonable and safe management of the pandemic’. Rather they are tools aimed at increased population surveillance and control at a time when public discontent, political dissent and economic hardship are rising fast among the British working population.
For all these reasons, the Workers’ Party of Britain will oppose attempts to enact and enforce mandatory Covid passports in Britain.