Annabel Denham, director of communications at the Institute of Economic Affairs, argues YES
That Boris Johnson didn’t rule out pub passports in an offhand comment to the Liaison Committee yesterday doesn’t warrant the subsequent “no jab no pint” hysteria. The Prime Minister has simply reaffirmed that, even in the warped Covid era, publicans running private businesses will still be granted the right to refuse entry.
This is no more coercion than businesses discriminating based on competence, pubs banning smoking in their beer gardens, or think tanks refusing to publish communists. Rather, it is the standard freedom of association that most libertarians would stridently defend.
Why, therefore, are some allergic to immunity certification? If it places publicans in an “invidious” position, then I’d like to see their response to the government dictating who they can and cannot allow onto their premises. If the concern is manpower, I would reiterate Boris’s words that this “kind of thing may be up to the landlord”. He is right: government not intervening in the day-to-day running of private businesses is a central tenet of a free market economy.
If some people want this, why stop them? Vaccines don’t provide complete safety, and some older and more vulnerable people may feel more comfortable in venues where the risk has been minimised by only allowing other people who’ve been vaccinated to enter.
Inevitably, some business owners will conclude that allowing entry to all is best for the bottom line after a year of turmoil. Others may decide to allocate times for the vaccinated and unvaccinated. Many will make exceptions for those who cannot have the vaccine. Exclusion is very unlikely to become an issue.
A final point. Why is it that those most vehemently anti-lockdown are also opposed to measures that could help it end? If face masks are required to educate children, surely this is preferable to keeping them under house arrest? If social distancing means non-essential stores may reopen, is that not a price worth paying? If temporary passports help pave the way to freedom, should they not be embraced?
Emma Webb, political commentator and associate fellow at Civitas, argues NO
Pubs should not be allowed to refuse the unvaccinated a pint.
Rightly, vaccination remains voluntary. Some people may object to taking the vaccine on ethical grounds, some may refuse because they are anxious about the side effects, while others might reject it simply because they do not wish to be coerced by the threat of discrimination. To a degree, their reasons are no one else’s business.
In a free society, the right to choose what goes into your body is fundamental. Coercion, through the threat of access to services, should worry libertarians just as much as direct government intervention does, yet many have chosen in this case to favour the rights of businesses over the rights of individuals.
Discrimination against the unvaccinated should be illegal. First, the risk to public health posed by a small minority of unvaccinated individuals is not sufficient to justify discrimination. Second, discrimination on medical grounds would effectively make the unvaccinated second-class citizens – let’s remember, being unable to attend social events with friends and family in your own country is quite different from needing a vaccine to go on holiday.
Further, it is worth remembering that socialising is not ‘non-essential’; it is central to our wellbeing and mental health – something that seems to have been forgotten over the past year.
The idea that without a vaccine you will effectively remain in lockdown should not be acceptable to anyone who values freedom.
One legitimate reason for the government to intervene is to protect the liberty of the individual. This includes their ability to live a normal life, free from discrimination. You can either have vaccine passports or a free society, you cannot have both. In any case, life without risk is no life.