From the 1st of July, the Digital Green Certificate has become available in all the European Union Member States.
What is the Digital Green Certificate? In a few words, it is an official certificate that proves that a person has been vaccinated (i.e. she has received at least one of the two doses of the vaccine), or that she has recovered from coronavirus, or that she tested negative. The approved vaccines are Vaxzevria (Oxford-AstraZeneca), Comirnaty (Pfizer-BioNTech), Spikevax (Moderna), and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson). The Indian-made vaccines - Covishield and Covaxin, have currently been approved by 16 European countries (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland).
What is the goal of the Green Certificate? Its main purpose is to facilitate safe and free movement of people.
In Italy, from the 6th of August the possession of such certificate (called ‘Green Pass’) will be mandatory in order to travel, access indoor restaurant, theatre, gyms, and other venues. The law has been approved the 22nd of July. However, in the past few days thousands of people have protested against the Green Pass: 9 thousands in Milan, 5 thousands in Turin, 3 thousands in Rome. The demonstrators show pictures of Draghi with moustaches à la Hitler, or words like “stop dictatorship”, “not vaccinated = Jewish”. Among them, there are a lot of bars and restaurants’ owners, who are afraid that the imposition of the vaccine or to a coronavirus test would discourage customers to consume in their locals. The No vax and No Green Pass people are supported by some politicians. For instance, Giorgia Meloni, the leader of Fratelli d’Italia (an extreme-right political party, populist and euro-sceptical, close to neo-fascism) wrote on Twitter that the Green Pass “damages the economy” and “limits the freedom” of the individual. Also Matteo Salvini, the leader of Lega Nord (another extreme-right party, known historically for pursuing the independence of Northern Italy from the South), talks about “violation of the civil rights” and declared himself “against the Green Pass”.
However, the obligation of the Green certificate to access bars, restaurants, gyms, theatres, etc., produced an increase in vaccine appointments. “All over the country, vaccine centres registered an increase of 15-200% in reservations”, claims Figliuolo, Commissioner for COVID-19 emergency. But still, 4, 8 millions of people over 50 in Italy have refused to take the vaccination anti-covid.
As a philosophy student, I have interrogate myself a lot on the question of freedom and the obligation of the Green Pass. Is it legitimate for a liberal State to impose such measures? Is the Green Pass a limitation of personal freedom? What a society based on pluralism of ideas should accept and what it should not accept? These are very complicated questions.
Since I trust science, I am in favour of the Green Pass. But what about the people who are sceptical towards the efficacy of the medicine (and, surprisingly, they are a lot)? Should they be allowed to refuse the vaccine or to wear the mask?
Liberalism was theorized first by the philosopher John Stuart Mill (1806-1873). In his essay On Liberty (1859) he defines the liberal State as based on the personal freedom of its members. “Over himself” he writes indeed “over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign”. This statement should be reminded to Meloni, Salvini, and all the people who appeals to liberalism and personal freedom on matters like the use of mask or anti-covid vaccination, but then say publicly that they are against abortion, euthanasia, and same-sex unions. It is really interesting how right wing politicians are able to manipulate the argumentation of individual freedom for the matters that can please their electorate, but when it’s about topics that conservative people dislike, they forget about freedom.
I was also surprised to read that Giorgio Agamben, an important Italian contemporary philosopher, criticized the choice of the government to make the Green Pass mandatory to access bars, restaurants, and other venues. In his opinion, the law on Green Pass is aimed at discriminating a certain category of people, because they are excluded from the social and cultural life. In fact, he said that “As it happens every time that a despotic regime is established in a situation of emergency, the effect is the discrimination of a category of men and women, who become automatically second class citizens”. Then, he added that the “Green Pass mark those who don’t want to have it of a virtual yellow star”. The comparison between no-vax and Jewish during Nazism is, in my opinion, really inappropriate. Indeed, here is not about a cultural, racial, or social discrimination, but a measure to prevent the spread of the virus one more time.
Furthermore, those who appeals to the inviolability of individual freedom have probably forgotten that even Stuart Mill wrote that the liberty of the citizens of a liberal State is not limitless. Therefore, when the State has the right of imposing restrictions on a person’s freedom? According to him, “the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others”. Therefore, the key-point of the question is to think in terms of collective good. Does a marriage between persons of the same sex hurt anybody? Not that I know. Can my choice of not taking prevention measures against coronavirus be harmful? The answer is evident.