Yesterday a judge ordered the temporary closure of a cinema in Swansea because of its persistent refusal to implement Covid infection control measures including vaccine passports.
These are not the draconian assault on civil liberties that has been suggested by some of the comments on social media. The court heard how council officers had visited the cinema on many occasions and failed to find any evidence of Covid precautions. No signage. No hand sanitizer. According to the council’s solicitor:
The reality is we say, the way these premises are being run, is as if Covid simply does not exist.Cinema & Co told it must close and is ordered to pay £5k – Wales Online
Prosecuted under Section 45I of the Public Health (Control of Diseases) Act 1984, Cinema & Co:
- Had not completed a Covid Risk Assessment outlining reasonable measures to control the transmission of Covid-19.
- Has not informed staff of the measures that are required to prevent the transmission of Covid 19.
- Has not implemented reasonable measures including a Covid Pass for cinema users.
- Does not have any signage informing customers of their need to wear face coverings or other information relating to reducing Covid 19 transmissions.
- Does not have adequate cleaning products which comply with BBEN1276 for sanitisers or BSEN14476 for anti-viral products to reduce the transmission of Covid 19.
The court action had been adjourned last week. Then on Friday the Welsh Government used its powers under Covid legislation to enforce the closure, pending a decision on the case being brought by Swansea Council. The owner defied the law, changed the locks and reopened at the weekend.
While right wing libertarians like Julia Hartley Brewer go on about vaccine passports, these were just the final straw in a tale of refusal to take Covid seriously.
The owner takes pride in being a contrarian and claims she is opposing discrimination.
There’s a huge discrimination element to these passes and people aren’t able to access their rights, we’re in 2021 and we’re discriminating against those who have chosen to exercise bodily autonomyIndependent cinema brazenly vows it won’t implement Covid pass scheme despite fierce criticism and risk of hefty fine – Wales Online
Until recently the cinema was not even showing films. Because of a slump in attendances it had converted itself into a food and drink venue in the summer that does not require vaccine passports. I cannot speak to the owner’s motivation. But when someone deliberately courts controversy and breaks the law in the name of upholding the rule of law you have to question their logic.
Cause and Defect
Although this is a decision in a Welsh court operating under Welsh rules for Covid, the cause lies in the defective policies in Westminster. Johnson has only ever had one policy – herd immunity. When he tried it in 2020, the realisation that it would cost hundreds of thousands of lives and swamp the NHS led to lockdown. But torn between the twin desires to save the economy and stop our crumbling public health sector infrastructure from collapse, he managed the worst of all possible worlds. Lockdown too late, unlock too soon and devastate the economy and the NHS.
Vaccines were the Tories’ get out of jail free card: herd immunity without mass deaths; and the economy can carry on. Except that the government does not understand herd immunity. The motivation for us, as individuals to get vaccinated is that it reduces our likelihood of infection and if we do become infected the symptoms will be milder and we are less likely to finish up in hospital and die.
The advantage for society – herd immunity – is that these benefits cascade. They reduce the opportunity for the virus to spread in the community and benefit both the jabbed and the unjabbed. Vaccine passports do not confer herd immunity. A mass rollout of vaccines does that.
Entitlement versus Solidarity
Personally, I think vaccine passports are misguided because they convey a false sense of security to the vaccinated. If you feel you are no longer a threat and are no longer threatened you stop doing all the disease mitigation stuff like mask wearing and social distancing. If you, for whatever reason, cannot or will not be vaccinated, vaccine passports are discriminatory. I want all my jabs so I can sit down in the cinema next to the person who cannot be jabbed and the threat to both of us is minimised.
Vaccine passports appeal to people’s sense of individual entitlement and not their sense of collective responsibility. They reinforce the selfish mindset that leads a self-entitled venue owner in Swansea to see martyrdom as a business opportunity, and exploit well meaning attempts at disease control for rabble rousing, and, significantly, for fundraising. Her court costs have already been covered by donations.
Mass vaccination plus infection control is the way out of this crisis. Cinema & Co have cynically opted out of both.
Life long socialist. Now retired, I have been an office junior, a bookseller, a docker and a teacher. I write a lot and read a lot more. Committed member of the Society of Authors, English PEN and the National Education Union. Never voting Labour again.