Vaccine passports are symbols of creeping authoritarianism

By: Rachel Marsden

PARIS — “Your papers, please.” Until now, that phrase has been synonymous with fascist states. But then COVID-19 came along, and now it’s about to make that phrase a reality for democracies.

The vaccine passport, or health passport, granting holders access to certain venues has already been introduced in several jurisdictions. In New York, people with an “Excelsior Pass” are allowed into large venues such as stadiums and theaters. Israel requires a similar digital pass even for smaller places such as gyms and restaurants. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that the “basic concept of a vaccine certification should not be totally alien to us,” and that pub owners could require it from patrons for entry. Just this week, Thierry Breton, head of the European Commission’s vaccine task force, introduced a health passport for use “within two to three months” across the European Union, adding that “it will be good to have a health certificate that demonstrates your condition.”

Actually, no, it wouldn’t be good at all, because “my condition” is not the business of the state. Why should anyone believe that some of the same governments that routinely invade other countries under the pretext of benevolent humanitarian intervention won’t ultimately misuse personal medical information or abuse their newfound license to control people’s very basic freedom of movement?

You might think that it all seems benign enough right now, or that you don’t have any real interest in visiting some of the places that may soon be under health passport control anyway. But what’s to stop a government from tightening the screws once the health passport is introduced to a complacent public? Today, you may not care about needing a pass to enter a pub or movie theater, but who’s to say that tomorrow it won’t be required to go grocery shopping?

Or you might figure that since, in some cases, these passes allow for a negative COVID-19 test to be used as proof of health status in lieu of vaccination, it isn’t really a big deal. But how do you know the rules won’t change? And if they do — because you couldn’t be bothered to defend your basic rights from creeping authoritarianism under the well-worn pretext of public safety — you may find yourself stuck in more ways than one.

The International Air Transport Association already has several airlines trying out a digital passport that “shares test or vaccination certificates with authorities to facilitate travel.” If public complacency eventually gives governments the confidence to eliminate the negative test option altogether in favor of mandatory vaccination, you might find yourself limited to staycations.

Oh, but just get the jab — or maybe two, depending on the specific vaccine’s dose requirements — and you’re good to go for a hassle-free life, right? If you believe that, then you’re already mistaken. British vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi is already talking about booster shots starting in September. And since antibodies don’t last forever, those who opt for the jabs could soon start resembling dartboards.

The goalposts keep moving because society isn’t putting its foot down. The pressure is so great from closet fascists in both government and the expert class — who would have everyone live under permanent house arrest in the interests of reducing the virus risk to zero — that even freedom-minded world leaders are feeling the heat.

Here in France, President Emmanuel Macron has faced intense pressure to lock down the country again, even though he seems to be trying to resist plunging the country into a fatal economic and social nosedive. Macron’s prime minister, Jean Castex, recently announced that the Paris region and several other departments where virus cases have been increasing would be “reconfined.” Some citizens of those regions scrambled to get out of Dodge as soon as they heard that dastardly word. But the new “lockdown” has merely resulted in one extra hour per day of curfew. What did Castex cite as justification for the curfew extension? Not any kind of health-related issue, but … daylight saving time. And there’s no limit to the time that people can spend outdoors during this so-called “lockdown.” For other restrictions, there’s a self-certification that you can fill out on your phone that you can show to a police officer to justify being out and about.

We’re now truly deep into the realm of sanitary-theater absurdity. The sanitary fascists can take their health passports, lockdowns and diktats and take a flying leap off a cliff. Or is government certification now required for that, too?