Wear a bracelet

Image thanks to Fox Business

From the Independent: ‘People in the UK who test negative for coronavirus should be given a wristband to help them identify themselves as Covid-free, a government advisory body has recommended.

Allowing citizens who display the wristband to move around more freely would help the country recover more quickly, according to the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) — the government-backed company known as the “nudge unit”.’

Such an approach is fraught with danger and is the start of a slippery slope to an authoritarian regime. 

Firstly this is not a nudge, but a direct action. The nudge unit has forgotten its remit if it thinks that giving people some form of written permission which allows them to move around more freely – something I thought we could do anyway – is a nudge. Laws have been put in place to restrict our movement and not to give us permission to move. 

Secondly, it will create a two, or more, tiered society, those with wrist bands and those without. This will quickly descend into a free market, where those who can afford to buy a black-market wristband, or pay for more frequent tests will have greater access to services and greater freedom than those who can’t.

Thirdly it is unworkable, in that it is impossible to know who is free from the virus or not. We know those who have it, who have come forward, and we know those who don’t have it after they have been tested. What we don’t know is the number of people who have or don’t have it between these two extremes, or who have then become infected immediately after being tested. You either have to assume that those you don’t know about are either all infected or all free from the virus. Perhaps you could create a different colored band for ‘don’t knows’, with all that entails.

Fourthly, those who have been infected and have come through it and built up immunity may very well get it again after a few months, be asymptomatic or may be carrying it on their clothes. A wristband would offer no protection.

Finally, the country has set its sights on a vaccine as a way out of the mess. Because of the numbers of people involved, the effectiveness of the different vaccines and the rate at which they can be manufactured, it could well be years before everyone is vaccinated. Is it really acceptable that some members of the population have privileged access to freedom on the back of a political decision? Perhaps if you are of the right political persuasion.

A quick visit to the library will show you why it is not a good idea to make citizens wear badges that single them out. The Behavioural Insights Team should think again and go back to nudging.

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