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< Back to question How do we think about the UK lockdown debate? Show more Show less

The coronavirus pandemic has led to unprecedented isolation measures throughout the world. One effect has been the creation of ideological blocs across traditional party lines, lobbying for different approaches to containing the virus. UK lockdown came into effect on March 23, shutting down non-essential business and movement outside the home, bar a single daily outing for exercise. Critics variously describe this decision as too late, too little, too much and overblown. So, who are these groups, what do they stand for, and why?

The nanny state position, or 'Let the state look after us' Show more Show less

This approach believes that the role of the state is to look after its citizens. It considers alternatives to lockdown, which give the state control to monitor the movements of its people for their own good.
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Give the healthy their independence back

The success of Wuhan's reopening is widely seen as down to their large-scale screening programme. Given the scant and unreliable reports of reinfection, many argue those not at risk should be given 'health passports'. These would allow the gradual reopening of society to those deemed safe by the government. This group believe that it is not right to deny freedom where the individual poses no harm to themselves or others. Proponents include the pharmaceutical lobby, with UK biometrics firm Onfido and Swiss drugmaker Roche already submitting patents for their design.
covid health politics
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The global outbreak of the COVID-19 virus in early 2020 led to national and international measures of social distancing, lockdowns and quarantines. As a result, debates about the effectiveness of lockdowns progressively arose, sparking protests and questions about what parts of the population should stay in lockdown or not.

The Argument

Introducing health passports would allow those that pose no risk to others, re-entry into society.[1] Individuals that have proven immunity against COVID-19 should no longer be restricted and move around freely as they which because they do not pose any harm to anyone else. Implementing such an approach would mean that workplaces and social interactions are safer and associated to less stress and fear for those participating. A way in which this can be achieved is a so-called “immunity passport” or health passport that works with a combination of COVID-19 testing and facial recognition. A person would take a test for immunity and if the latter is proven, the person can return back to work. To make this return safe and reliable, companies like Roche and Quotient are developing antibody tests that can be easily used. [1] Once someone’s immunity is proven, the health passport could come into play. With the help of an official picture (passport, ID) the individual could show up to work and thanks to a facial recognition system connected to an app, it could be verified that it is indeed the person presenting itself that has developed immunity. Such a system would allow Britons to return to work safely and would ease the partial uptake of economic activity that has been put to a halt because of the virus. Overall, such a strategy is being presented to the UK government and ministers and could allow to develop a more targeted and efficient response to COVID-19 that goes beyond putting an entire population into lockdown.

Counter arguments

1. Immunity to COVID-19 is still underexplored and it might be not as long-lasting or constant in its degree amongst different individuals. As a consequence, the health passport is not an idea that should be implemented at this point. [2] 2. Having a health passport would discriminate against people who have not developed immunity through contracting the virus. It is an approach that doesn’t promote solidarity and that could possibly encourage people to get infected in the hope to get immune and return to work. [3]


Those who cannot infect others and get infected themselves should be allowed to go back to work or attend social gatherings.


[P1] If someone does not pose harm to him/herself or others, they shouldn’t be restricted in what they can do. [P1] The individual situation of someone should determine what they are allowed to do rather than the overall situation of a community determining it for everyone.

Rejecting the premises

[P1] If someone does not pose harm to him/herself or others, they should still act in solidarity and consider the ramifications for other members of society. [P2] The individual situation of someone should not determine what they are allowed to do. The overall situation of a community should weigh higher.



This page was last edited on Thursday, 16 Jul 2020 at 12:17 UTC

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