Mark Ashby is an independent researcher interested in upland and farmland ecology, and evidence synthesis.
Leaked documents have revealed the details of Operation Moonshot, the UK governments newly proposed COVID-19 mass testing program1-4. The program involves dramatically increasing testing capacity from the current level of 350,000 COVID-19 tests per day to ten million tests per day by early 20212. Operation Moonshots primary aim is to “utilise the full range of testing approaches and technologies to help reduce the R rate, keep the economy open and enable a return to normal life”2. Because, of course, we can only keep the economy open and return to normal life when daily mass testing is successfully introduced (Anders Tegnall and Johan Giesecke take note!).
Joking aside, the most alarming aspect of Operation Moonshot is that the government plans to “roll out digital immunity passports to allow people who test negative to return to workplaces, travel, and participate in other activities” 2. In essence, this means that people who refuse to be tested for COVID-19 will be barred from returning to normal life. If like me, you cherish personal freedom, this development will make you boil with rage. Especially after nearly six months of lockdown during which our hard-won freedoms were wrongfully and repeatedly removed.
However, thus far, the criticisms of Operation Moonshot have centred around the cost (£100bn), whether it can be achieved with current technology, the logistics of implementing such a strategy, the accuracy of the tests (the problem of false positives), and the scientific validity of using mass testing to control a respiratory virus1-10. These are all legitimate concerns, but they are, in my opinion, secondary to the serious and real threat posed by Operation Moonshot to our personal freedom. And, the distinct lack of moral outrage about this within the political, academic and media classes has inspired me to write this brief article, with the aim of drumming up some resistance to this draconian policy.
I can already hear the tedious, short-sighted and servile retorts to my objections: “you only lose your freedoms if you’re too stubborn and selfish to take a COVID-19 test”. My objections have nothing to do with being stubborn or selfish: I simply believe that my access to everyday life should not be conditional on whether I get tested for a virus that is, at worst, only slightly more deadly than seasonal influenza11-16. In fact, I believe that, regardless of the threat level, governments in free societies have no business in restricting my personal freedoms.
More importantly, if we don’t put up a fight over digital immunity passports, we are essentially giving this government, and any future government, the green light to introduce a whole raft of authoritarian policies. Indeed, one could argue that if the British public had put up more of a fight about lockdown and mandatory facemasks, then the government wouldn’t even be considering introducing digital immunity passports. Nor would it have introduced the evidence-free ‘Rule of Six’. Ah well, we are where we are: saddled with a government who thinks it can get away with introducing any draconian measures it wants as long as it emphasises the necessity of such measures. But of course “Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves”17.
If we don’t object now, I believe the logical next step for the government to take is to include COVID-19 vaccination on the digital immunity passport (if and when a vaccine becomes available). In other words, if you want access to everyday life, a COVID-19 vaccination will become a mandatory requirement. I’m certainly not anti-vaccine, but I cringe at the thought of a mandatory vaccine. Moreover, the flu jab has not eradicated seasonal influenza11,18, so why should we expect a vaccine to eradicate COVID-19?
Well, we shouldn’t, but this imbecilic government has gotten into its head that an endemic virus can be eradicated. Perhaps it can be eradicated, but only if we enact Lord Sumption’s tongue-in-cheek policy of isolating everyone in a box and feeding them through a tube19. Who knows, Messrs Johnson and Hancock may agree with the necessity of such a policy this time next year when people are still testing positive for COVID-19.
Post-COVID, what new and wonderful draconian policies can we expect if we are apathetic about the introduction of immunity passports? Well, I’m no soothsayer, but I do know that there’s an obesity crisis, there’s also a climate emergency, and unconscious bigotry is rife within UK society. So, this is what I think we can expect:
- Digital health passports: This will prevent you from buying and consuming any food or beverage item if it means you exceed your daily allowance of protein, fat, dietary fibre, sugar, sodium or alcohol. Daily allowances will be calculated using your height, weight, level of exercise (monitored using a Fitbit) and other relevant information (e.g. underlying health conditions). When digital health passports are initially released, users will be fined if they exceed their daily allowance, with the money going to the National Health Service budget. But soon the government will realise that the NHS runs better if it isn’t treating anybody. At this point, fines will be scrapped, and people will be prevented from buying anything if it means that they exceed their daily allowance.
- Digital carbon passports: This will make everyone a sustainable cog in a big green machine. Everyone will have an annual greenhouse gas allowance and will be prevented from making any purchases, carrying out any activity or receiving medical treatment if it means you exceed this allowance. For example, the digital carbon passport will be connected to your car, and if you have reached your annual greenhouse gas allowance, the car will not start. Given that climate change is an emergency rather than a crisis, fines will be considered too weak a response for all activities except healthcare (as access to healthcare will be considered by many people as more important than tackling the climate crisis). However, healthcare will quickly be brought in line with other areas under the remit of the carbon passport when the government realises that the NHS runs better if it isn’t treating anybody.
- Digital equity passports – A digital equity passport will be obtained upon the successful completion of unconscious bias training. Importantly, this passport is not mandatory. However, those who do not have one will not be allowed into workplaces and certain social events. Unconscious bias training is built around the Implicit Association Test – a test known for its accurate and reliable measurement of the bigotry lurking in your subconscious. The successful completion of unconscious bias training requires you to pass the Implicit Association Test.
Of course, I’m being facetious, and you probably think that nothing like the above will ever happen. But, this time last year, who would’ve have dreamed that in 2020 the UK government could ever tell us when we could leave the house and how long for, who we could see when we are out and where we could go? The UK governments COVID-19 policies and the cowed response of the British people should convince you of how easy it would be for us to slide into a dystopian nightmare. So, if you believe in preserving any semblance of personal liberty, then I urge you to write to your local MP and politely object to digital immunity passports in the strongest possible terms.
Update: Hector says: the next thing on the list to be added to your ‘social passport’ (or ‘community passport’) would be a Chinese-style social credit score, which will be higher or lower depending on your expressed opinions. A lower score will prevent you getting decent employment, and a really low score will cut you out of normal society.
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- William Pitt the Younger