The World Today for August 02, 2021



Papers, Please

Imagine a lamp-lit cobblestone street on a dark, foggy night in Paris. As an innocent civilian walks down the street with the intent of boarding a bus out of the city, a uniformed man approaches from the shadows. “Your papers, please,” he says, adding that compliance is a matter of national security.

This cartoonish vignette does not depict life in a police state. It’s an example of the sort of checks that are occurring as Europe adopts vaccine passports in a bid to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

French lawmakers passed a “passe sanitaire” that would require proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test to access cultural and entertainment sites that host more than 50 people, with restaurants, cafes and shopping centers to follow this month, France24 reported. Mask mandates remain in force.

Italian officials recently announced that a health pass would be necessary to visit museums, dine indoors at restaurants, attend theater performances and other public activities, the Washington Post added. In announcing the measure, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said he wanted to prevent the kind of suffering that plagued Italy last year at the height of the pandemic. He also wanted to avoid another punishing year for the Italian economy.

The passes are controversial, however, because they evoke a slide into authoritarianism that observers such as those at the Centre for European Reform have claimed has occurred since the pandemic erupted.

More than 160,000 people in France took to the streets to protest the passes recently and again over the weekend, a protest that descended into violence, Newsweek reported. Building on the activism of the so-called Yellow Vests who demonstrated against fuel price increases starting in late 2018, the protesters enjoy the support of more than one-third of the French public, according to polls. Italians and Greeks also staged protests, Deutsche Welle wrote.

Criticism of the passes is why German officials are mulling them but don’t expect to require them unless Covid-19 cases increase, Euronews reported. Regardless, protests erupted over the weekend over anti-covid measures, Euronews reported in another story.

Meanwhile, European leaders have offered cash, extra phone data, football arena tours and even “free grilled meat” to incentivize their citizens to receive vaccines, CNN explained. And while 70 percent have been vaccinated, European leaders want to increase that as cases rise, Politico reported. So they are considering strong-arm tactics.

One can imagine the complications. As the New York Times described, Americans trying to travel to Europe must negotiate a web of rules if they want to move around freely. Brits who are no longer European Union citizens due to Brexit are facing similar challenges, the BBC said.

Perhaps these passes are draconian. Unvaccinated folks who feel that way can always stay home. Still, as the Economist noted, the demand for vaccinations spiked immediately after France and Italy passed their restrictions. In these countries, staying away from cafes proved to be too much.

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