This afternoon, as well as being the Second Coming of Cristiano Ronaldo, was the first occasion on which I had to have a Covid passport. I’ve had both the paper and digital versions since a fortnight or so after receiving my second jab in June, but today was the first time that I actually *had* to have one. I received an e-mail last week informing me that, prior to their being made compulsory at large sporting events in October, United were taking part in a trial scheme for today’s match against Newcastle, and spot checks would be carried out on over 18s. I wasn’t spot checked, and I didn’t actually see anyone else being spot checked either, but presumably some people were. And I’m too old to go to music festivals, but, with Parklife taking place this weekend, signs saying “Please have your Covid NHS passes ready” have appeared all over Heaton Park. As cases increase now that schools are back, and the NHS comes under seasonal pressure as we head into the winter months, the likelihood is that we’re going to need Covid passports for more and more things, so we may as well get used to them.
I’m saying “Covid passport” rather than “vaccine passport” because, in this case, proof of a negative test within the last 48 hours was acceptable, for those without vaccine passports. However, I understand that, in Scotland, it’s going to be vaccine passports only when the scheme comes into force on October 1st, although with exemptions for those unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons, and that proof of a negative test won’t do. I would think it’ll be the same in England: we’ll presumably get the lowdown when Boris says his piece on Tuesday. Having heard about the long queues at the US Open tennis, where vaccine passports are required for all over 12s, I’m quite glad that United have taken part in the trial, so that, hopefully, any major problems can be ironed out before it all becomes law. BTW, speaking of the US Open, I shall be sticking with Amazon Prime but I assume everyone’s aware that tonight’s Raducanu-Fernandez match will now also be shown on Channel 4.
When I first started going to football matches, in the early 1980s, you just showed your ticket and went into the ground. Now, you can only take a very small bag in, all sorts of items are prohibited, and you have to be searched before you go through the turnstiles. It’s not very nice. Nor is someone rooting through your handbag before you go into the theatre. Nor are all the security checks at airports – I’m always stressed at airports anyway (not that I’ve been to one since December 2019) and security makes it a million times worse, especially in certain countries where you feel as if you’ve been hauled up before the Inquisition. But, given the horrific events of 20 years ago, and of May 22nd 2017 at our own Manchester Arena, and of so many other tragic occasions, then it’s the way it has to be.
Same sort of idea with vaccine passports. Incidentally, someone posted on a United Facebook page that they were fully vaccinated but didn’t see why they should have to prove it to some jobsworth. Could we not do this, please? If you don’t like the idea of vaccine passports, write to your MP. Don’t have a go at the person on the door or the turnstile. They’re just doing their job. I’m not overly keen on the idea myself, in theory. “Carrying papers” has vague connotations of Nazi Germany or slave passes. But this is one very nasty virus. It’s not going away, and it keeps mutating. We’ll never know the real death toll, but the official figures suggest that it’s around 157,000 in the UK alone and over 4.6 million people worldwide. Many more have been left with long-term health problems. And we know from figures released early this week that Northern England’s suffered more than any other part of England. Then there’s the mental health and economic devastation caused. If having an extra app on your phone or carrying a bit of paper can do anything to help prevent things from getting any worse, and can potentially protect you and other people from serious illness or worse, then, as with security checks, it’s the way it has to be.
I can see that this could end up placing a huge burden on businesses. Premier League football clubs can afford extra staff and technology, if they’re needed. It’s unlikely that vast numbers of lifelong fans will stop attending matches because of Covid passport requirements. If, as some other countries have done, we end up requiring Covid passports to go into cafes, pubs, restaurants, cinemas etc, it’s going to be different matter, and that’s something that will have to be addressed. It seems to be the main reason that Labour and the Liberal Democrats opposed the vaccine passport legislation in Scotland. We’re going to have to see how it goes. But cases are going up again, we are heading towards winter, and something’s got to give somewhere. If it’s vaccine passports or lockdown, then bring on vaccine passports.
What about people who’ve chosen not to be vaccinated? Well, 80.1% of over 16s in the UK have had both jabs, and 89% have had at least one jab, and will presumably be having their second within the next few weeks – and many of those who’ve had one jab but not two will be those aged 16 and 17, to whom the passport schemes don’t apply. The vast majority of people are not in this position. For the remaining 11%, yes, you are entitled to choose not to be vaccinated. But no, you are not entitled to increase the risk to other people. The person next to you could have a severely compromised immune system, for all you know. Even if they haven’t, they could be one of the unlucky people badly affected by the virus, even if they’ve been double jabbed themselves.
I have actually had to carry a vaccine passport before – a yellow fever vaccine passport certificate, when I went to Bolivia. No-one even asked to see it! But I had it. And, thanks to Malory Towers, I was – at the age of about 7 – briefly convinced that everyone had to show a “health certificate” at the start of every term at secondary school … but, er, you don’t! But today was the first time that I had to carry a Covid passport. I suspect that it will be the first of many. And I very much hope that, next year, I’ll be showing it at the airport, because I really want to get back to travelling abroad.
On a different note, I arrived home on Tuesday to find that the boiler had broken down. I tried turning it off and on again. No joy. It’s under a maintenance contract, so I contacted British Gas. You used to be able to speak to a human being even if you rang at midnight: now, you can only get a voice prompt. I’d just have gone on the website if I’d known that. But, anyway, the good news was that they could send someone on Wednesday morning. “Between 8 and 1.”
Now, I’ve had this sort of thing more times than I care to remember, over the years. Things break. Or things need delivering. And you get told “between 8 and 1” or “between 12 and 6”. Or even “between 8 and 6”. Yes, they’ll ring you 1/4 hour beforehand, or they’ll text you in the morning with a one hour delivery slot, but none of that’s an awful lot of use if you’re trapped at work. “Can’t someone wait in the house for you?” Well, strangely enough, I haven’t got a butler or a housekeeper. I have on numerous occasions had to ask my kind mum or dad to wait in, but then it’s a bind for them, 5 or 6 hours stuck in someone else’s house. And, this time, it wasn’t an option anyway, because they were visiting my sister in London.
I’ve really struggled with this in the past. I once burst into tears down the phone to British Gas, because they refused to send someone out on a Sunday and said that it would have to be Monday, and I kept saying that I had to go to work on Monday, and they kept saying that there was nothing they could do. It wasn’t their fault. But it wasn’t mine either. It really is one of the main reasons I suffer so badly with anxiety. I’ve felt trapped every time I’ve been in the office. I’ve even quoted the Patrick Swayze “I’m balancing on shit, Baby,” line from Dirty Dancing, because that’s how it’s felt.
But, on Wednesday morning, I rang the office and explained the situation, and said that I would work from home until the boiler man came. Because I can do that now. Because we’re set up for it. OK, it could have been a day on which I was due to be in a meeting, or at a client’s office, or urgently needed some files which were on my desk; but, thankfully, it wasn’t. And, if it had been, then it would only have meant a delay of a day. And guess what? The boiler needed a new part. The guy didn’t have one with him. So he had to come back on Thursday. Same thing again.
This pandemic has been horrific . But it’s had a few good effects, and one of them has been that WFH has become widely accepted. I do fully appreciate that not everyone is lucky enough to be able to WFH, and I sympathise deeply with those who can’t, or those whose bosses are so vile that they won’t let them – anyone else see the reports in the press this week about a tribunal involving a woman who was sacked because she had to leave the office to collect her child, who had a medical condition and had been taken ill at school? But, at the moment, I’m still WFH two days a week and very much hope that that will become a permanent thing, and no-one particularly objected when I had to add Wednesday morning to that at the last moment.
If anyone’s read this, thank you, and stay safe xxx.