Domestic Vaccine Passports Could Create ‘Two-Tier Society’, Warns Equalities Watchdog

LIVERPOOL, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 05: a electronic sign funded by the trust gives out coronavirus pandemic information to visitors and staff outside the Royal Liverpool University Hospital on January 05, 2021 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. The Prime Minister yesterday announced a new lockdown with tougher Covid-19 measures following a …
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Domestic immunity certificates aimed at reopening British society could be unlawful indirect discrimination and create a “two-tier society”, the equalities watchdog has reportedly said.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove is currently leading a consultation on immunity certification for domestic use, with the findings expected to be delivered in June. Commonly called vaccine passports, the documents, likely digital, may record whether a person has been vaccinated, is naturally immune after recovering from coronavirus, or recently tested negative for the Chinese virus and could be used to gain access to certain large-scale events like concerts.

As recent updates to the UK government’s coronavirus mobile app show, the state also wishes to track the whereabouts of individuals.

According to a submission from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), Britain’s equalities watchdog, seen by The Guardian, there is a risk the new measures will exclude sectors of society with low-uptake of vaccinations, such as ethnic minorities and poorer people.

“There is a risk of unlawful discrimination if decisions taken in this process disadvantage people with protected characteristics who have not received, or are not able to receive, the vaccine, unless they can be shown to be justified,” the EHRC document said, according to the newspaper.

“Any mandatory requirement for vaccination or the implementation of Covid-status certification may amount to indirect discrimination, unless the requirement can be objectively justified,” it added.

A government spokesman said in a statement: “Covid-status certification could have an important role to play both domestically and internationally, as a temporary measure. We are fully considering equality and ethical concerns as part of our ongoing review.”

This week, the owners of over 60 hospitality venues, including pubs and restaurants, have written to the prime minister, telling him that they will refuse to enforce vaccine passports on clients, even if mandated by the government.

The business owners told Boris Johnson: “We will not be forcing our patrons to show us any documentation referring to health status to gain entry.”

They added that amongst the practical and logistical reasons for rejecting the measures, there were “civil liberty and discrimination considerations more broadly for society, if venues or events insist on seeing health documents”.

The European Union has also recently scaled back its proposals for the “green pass”, maintaining that member states remain the final arbiters of whether to life restrictions, adding that it was important that the pass did not become a travel document in order to “reinforce the principle of non-discrimination, in particular, towards unvaccinated persons”.

The EHRC document also advised the Cabinet Office that mandatory vaccines for workers at elderly care home facilities could also be unlawful, according to The Guardian.

On Wednesday, the government announced a brief five-week public consultation on making vaccination mandatory for frontline staff at care homes, with Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi stressing the rules would be a condition of “deployment”, rather than employment.

Conservative MP David Davis told City A.M. on Wednesday that if approved, it would represent a “serious” policy change from the Health and Social Care Act (2008) and that the measures could be a “precursor to allow[ing] other sectors to do the same thing”.

“All the Health and Social Care Act was doing was putting into law what is a matter of international convention anyway, which is that you cannot require people to have medical treatment which is not explicitly for their own interest,” Mr Davis said, also warning, as per the EHRC, that it could create a “two-tier society” where, for the unvaccinated, “the lockdown never ends”.

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