Controversy Over COVID ‘Passports’

As part of the British Government’s exploration of opening up normal activity safely, Michael Gove is visiting Israel to study the country`s COVID-19 ‘green pass’ system. He is reviewing how COVID certification might work in the UK and is said to be a fan of the Israelis’ scheme.

Jonathan Van-Tam, England`s deputy chief medical officer, is with him on the visit and is influential in formulating the government`s COVID strategy.

They are meeting Israel`s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Health Minister, Yuli Edelstein, to discuss various aspects of the way forward in emerging from the restrictions used to control the spread of the virus.

Gove and Netanyahu meet in JerusalemMichael Gove meets Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem (photo: Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Whilst many Israelis seem to be content with the ‘green pass’ smartphone app, its use is not without controversy. Called Tav Yarok in Hebrew, the so-called ‘passport’ is only being offered to people in Israel who have been fully vaccinated or who have recovered from COVID-19.

Professor David Enoch, from the Faculty of Philosophy and Law at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, explains that:

“As a matter of law, using a green passport policy is not that you get the vaccine
but is you either get the vaccine or avoid certain kind of risky interactions with others.”

“If someone decides nonetheless not to get the vaccine,
they are within their right to do so,
no one is talking about coercing them, but it should also be
that they should bear the costs of this poor decision.”

In contrast, Dr Zvi Bentwich, Head of the Centre for Tropical Diseases and Aids at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, says great care is needed:

“Even if you want to vaccinate – as we believe is a logical and justified measure –
one has to be careful in not forcing vaccinations.”

“We are not against vaccination, but we are against the usage of the measure
that would cause discrimination and enforcement of measures
that would impinge on basically your human right.”

Dr Bentwich is a member of the Emergency Public Council for the Corona Crisis, a group including doctors, scientists and others. They feel so strongly about the matter that they have filed a lawsuit with Israel’s Supreme Court calling the green pass ‘coercive and predatory.’

The talks involving Michael Gove and Jonathan Van-Tam included plans to establish a “green” travel corridor between Israel and the UK, with mutual recognition of vaccinations. Also discussed was the possibility of increasing cooperation in the research, development and manufacturing of vaccines against viruses.

Yuli Edelstein said:

“The global battle against the coronavirus necessitates bilateral co-operations. 
Israel and Britain have excellent co-operation on health.
The continued co-operation will help create better health and economy.”

Within that context, Benjamin Netanyahu and Michael Gove also agreed to promote the upgrading of the free trade agreement between the two countries – something the UK can do now it has left the European Union.