‘Big Brother Watch’ campaign group launches legal action against Welsh Covid passes after raising £180,000
A civil liberties and privacy campaigning organisation, Big Brother Watch, has vowed to bring legal action against mandatory Welsh Covid passes.
They have raised almost £180,000 through an online crowdfunder and now say they will use the money in order to challenge the legality of the Welsh Government’s passes.
People in Wales will have to show a COVID pass to enter cinemas, theatres and concerts from 15 November after Labour and Plaid Cymru voted for the move in the Senedd last night.
Big Brother Watch said it would launch a legal challenge against the “authoritarian, invasive and unevidenced” scheme.
The campaign group was founded by Matthew Elliott, who also founded the TaxPayers’ Alliance and was the chief executive of Vote Leave.
“Big Brother Watch strongly believes these authoritarian, invasive and unevidenced internal health passports need to be scrapped, now,” they said.
“This is the first human rights legal challenge in the UK against Covid passes – and we’re only able to start this thanks to your incredible support.
“There are far more proportionate, effective and inclusive measures to keep people safe and get the country back to normal than excluding healthy people without the right health papers from society. But we will never get back to anything like normal with health ID checks that will inevitably continue to expand.”
The Welsh Liberal Democrats and Welsh Conservatives also opposed bringing in Covid passes in October and the extension of their use in November.
Welsh Liberal Democrats leader Jane Dodds said that the system was “both illiberal and unworkable” and that the Welsh Government had “broken trust” by expanding a scheme it initially stated was for very limited circumstances.
“Despite requests to the Health Minister, we have not been provided with any evidence that shows the scheme has been effective in keeping down case numbers. There has also been no evidence provided to as why cinemas, theatres and concert halls have been singled out specifically,” she said.
“Both the Government’s own advisory unit and Chief Medical Officer have themselves admitted in the last week that the impact of the scheme is likely very small.
“It is deeply concerning the impact this decision will have on small businesses across Wales, over the last few weeks a number of community cinemas and theatres have gotten in touch with to express their fear of how they are meant to hire new staff to enforce this scheme without any financial support from the Welsh Government.
“Beyond the practical implications of this scheme remains an example of poor law-making with no set review period. How long will the passes be in place? Where and when will they be expanded to next?
“There will be serious financial repercussions if the scheme is expanded to other forms of hospitality including restaurants and cafes. We could also end up in the same situation as Italy, which has now mandated COVID Passports for public transport.”
The vote came as parts of Wales have the highest coronavirus rates in the entire UK.
Following the vote, Minister for Health and Social Services Eluned Morgan said that Covid “has not gone away and cases remain high and we need to continue to take steps to keep Wales safe”.
“The NHS COVID pass is one measure among many to help to keep businesses open while also helping to control the spread of the virus,” she said.
“The decision to introduce them has not been taken lightly and the venues that will be covered are indoors and see large numbers of people being closely together for prolonged periods of time.
“Since 11 October, people have been required to show an NHS Covid pass or recent negative lateral flow test result to enter nightclubs, similar venues and events and the service is working well.
“We have received positive feedback from a range of businesses and organisers of major events, including following the recent rugby internationals.
“We will continue to work with the sectors who are implementing the scheme to best support them.”
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