Immunity Passports May Liberate Us From Lockdowns or Invite New Privacy Invasions
Are you looking forward to resuming something that resembles a normal life in terms of travel, concert attendance, and public gatherings? Vaccines for COVID-19 are a big step towards putting pandemic fears behind us. But if hosts aren’t satisfied with knowing vaccines are available, they may want proof that event attendees and travelers have had their shots. That’s where immunity passports come in, and they may help us move past the pandemic—or add new intrusiveness and frustration to our activities.
The idea of immunity passports originated in the spring as a recourse for those who had already suffered a bout of COVID-19. They would be “digital or physical documents that certify an individual has been infected and is purportedly immune to SARS-CoV-2,” noted a May article in The Lancet. “Individuals in possession of an immunity passport could be exempt from physical restrictions and could return to work, school, and daily life.”
Immunity passports, then, were conceived as something liberating for those no longer at risk from the disease. “This has at least some potential as a way to loosen the ties that have brought so much work and so many lives to a standstill,” Ron Bailey, Reason‘s science correspondent, observed in April.
Since then, however, the idea has morphed more than a little. For starters, it’s looking less like a Get Out of Jail Free card and more like a hall pass.
“International air travel could come booming back next year but with a new rule: Travelers to certain countries must be vaccinated against the coronavirus before they can fly,” The Globe and Mail recently reported.
Carriers will also impose restrictions. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) endorses immunity passports and has developed its own Travel Pass. Qantas says it will require proof of vaccination and other airlines are bound to follow. Norwegian Cruise Lines is considering a similar move.
Similar rules may apply to many entertainment venues. Ticketmaster points out that “one idea to keep the event entry process as simple and convenient as possible is to find a way for fans to link their digital ticket to their negative test results, vaccine status, health declaration or any other info that is determined to greenlight access.”
Accomplishing that task shouldn’t be difficult, given that there are already competing implementations of immunity passports seeking to make the
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