England is undoubtedly one of the countries leading the race when it comes to vaccinating its population against Covid-19. At the time of writing, some 47 million people had been given their first vaccine dose – nearly 90% of the adult population. Around 39 million – roughly 74% of all adults – have had both doses.

The vaccine is now being offered to 16- and 17-year-olds, while the country debates whether to then start rolling it out among younger children.

Thanks to the incredible success of its vaccine programme, the government there plans to introduce “vaccine passports” which will be needed to gain entry into nightclubs and other crowded indoor venues.

The announcement is massively controversial and has caused a backlash from within the UK government’s own party. But Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains unmoved, saying that once all adults have had the chance to receive two jabs, vaccine certificates will be compulsory for certain events and venues.

“I should serve notice now that by the end of September, when all over-18s will have had their chance to be double-jabbed, we are planning to make full vaccination the condition of entry to nightclubs and other venues where large crowds gather,” he said. “Some of life’s most important pleasures and opportunities are likely to be increasingly dependent on vaccination.”

The UK is not alone in implementing such measures.

France and Germany, having initially been reluctant to introduce Covid passports, are now both going further than most other countries in Europe by making “normal life” more difficult for unvaccinated people.

They’re not going quite so far as to make vaccines compulsory, but the limitations they’re imposing on the “unvaxed” make getting the vaccine a preferable option.

The idea of Covid passports first emerged as a way of easing the movement of people across international borders, but, in the EU particularly, many countries are now starting to use them domestically too.

In France, for example, people will soon have to show their jab certificates before being allowed onto planes and trains, and into restaurants and cafes. Vaccinations for French health workers are set to be compulsory by the end of the European summer – a move that’s already been adopted by Italy and Greece. And in certain areas, unvaccinated employees will have to provide negative Covid tests before they return to work after the summer holidays.

Naturally, there are those for whom these regulations do not sit comfortably.

Over 100 000 protesters marched in large French cities like Montpellier, Paris, and Marseille, demanding the resignation of the French premier Emmanuel Macron, and shouting things like, “No to the health dictatorship!”

So, is what France is proposing the right approach?

Their government’s attitude is this: it’s completely your choice if you choose not to have the vaccine, but those of us who’ve had it are going to live our lives normally again.

The message to the anti-vaxxers is clear: If you’re not vaccinated, you’re a danger to yourself and others, so either stay at home, or pay to have Covid tests every two days for the rest of your life.

There is a strong argument to support this standpoint: Why should those people who’ve chosen to do the right thing continue to be faced with the same restrictions on their lives and travel as those who’ve decided not to have the vaccine? No one is forcing you to get jabbed – it’s your choice. But, as with all choices we make in life, there are consequences.

The issue is polarising, and it raises as many questions as it answers.

What, for example, will our medical aids choose to do? If you’ve had the chance to get the vaccine but have refused, and you then contract Covid and need to be hospitalised, will they pay your claims?

And can employers insist on “no jab, no job?”

In South African law, there is currently nothing expressly or directly preventing an employer from implementing a policy requiring compulsory vaccination. But there are constitutional rights at play that may prevent this kind of action, including legislation prohibiting unfair discrimination, unfair labour practices and unfair dismissals.

Of course, that then throws up the argument that is it indeed unfair for an employer to make their employees get the vaccine? Is it not more unfair to expose employees to the risk of a potentially fatal virus by forcing them to work with unvaccinated colleagues?

Is there not an argument that it’s in the interest of public safety, and of the health and safety requirements of the business, for all employees to protect themselves and each other? Surely there needs to be a balance between the constitutional rights of the individual and the health and safety of the greater public?

Naturally, this is a much bigger issue than can possibly be concluded within the confines of this article.

Personally, I think the actions of our UK, US and European friends are a strong indicator of the way things are going. Because at the end of the day, no one is safe from Covid until the whole world is safe from Covid.

Recognising this, at the recent G7 summit, Boris Johnson said, “Vaccinating the world by the end of next year [2022] would be the single greatest feat in medical history. I’m calling on my fellow G7 leaders to join us to end this terrible pandemic and pledge we will never allow the devastation wreaked by coronavirus to happen again.”

The only way to do that may be to get everyone vaccinated.

JGL Forensic Services helps companies develop ethical, sustainable businesses so that together we can build a South Africa that we are proud of.

We assist you to create the right context for ethical and sustainable business practices to thrive by means of proactive training and ongoing awareness of risks and show you how this can result in profitable growth for the company.

Talk to us in confidence, and let’s work together to prevent corporate corruption and fraud.

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