Irish Council for Civil Liberties Executive Director Liam Herrick said it is not clear what the COVID cert system is supposed to achieve and that there is “very little evidence” regarding how successful it has been.
Mr Herrick stated that the COVID cert system is “clearly discriminatory” and said that the real question is whether it is “justified and proportionate.”
“It is clear that we are in a difficult position at the moment and Government has to make difficult choices,” he said, but went on to note that there are “some public health measures [the government] can introduce that don’t have an impact on people’s rights and are not discriminatory. For example, providing free access to testing is not problematic and requiring people to wear masks on public transport is a very limited imposition on people’s right. ... But what we seem to be moving towards here is a wider use of something that clearly is discriminatory – that is the vaccine cert system – and doing so when there has been very little evidence produced about exactly what function the cert system is performing and how it is performing in practice,” he stated.
Mr. Herrick observed that we have the highest level of vaccine uptake in the world and suggested that if the purpose of the covid cert system was to encourage people to get vaccinated, then it is no longer needed. He also noted that continuing with a covid cert system could actually have a counter-effect in that people who are wary of the government's intentions could find their suspicions reinforced. “It is completely reasonable that bodies like NPHET will look at this from an immediate point of view of the hospitals in crisis and disease control, ... but Government needs to look at the wider societal impact and the long-term effects and we need to think about creating divisions in society that might be very difficult to repair.” he said.
He warned that vaccine certs were originally supposed to be phased out as soon as a large enough proportion of the population had been vaccinated.
“It seems to have had different purposes at different points in time,” he said,“The Government hasn’t really brought forth any evidence of how it is performing in practice. So, to rely on this as a significant public health measure without any evidence, when we know it is discriminating against people – including people who can’t get the vaccine for medical reasons – I think is troubling.”