It's time to punish Britain's five million vaccine refuseniks, writes ANDREW NEIL

ANDREW NEIL: Time to punish Britain’s vaccine-refusing five million.

Yesterday night, I went out with a friend to eat at a restaurant near my South French home. We were asked politely for our vaccination passports. The QR codes from our phones were then scanned, and we were taken to our tables.

The check had taken seconds — a very minor inconvenience when a new wave of the coronavirus pandemic is sweeping across the Continent.

Knowing that the rest of the diners were either fully vaccinated themselves, had recently been tested negative or have recovered from the disease gave me a feeling of security.

If smartphones are a bit recherché for you, you can print out a paper version of your vaccine passport. You can also print it out. 

One friend who won’t give up his ancient, very unsmart, mobile, has pasted his paper passport onto the back of his phone. That’s probably even more efficient than fiddling with your smartphone to find the QR code.

It’s been like this in France since early August when vaccine passports became mandatory for cinemas, museums, restaurants, theatres, bars, nightclubs, planes and long-distance trains.

At first, there was some pushback — and some argy-bargy from those who turned up at a venue but had forgotten their passports. Now it’s just part of the routine of living with the virus.

Of course, it’s not foolproof. It’s not foolproof. Even those who are vaccinated, they can still get the virus and transmit it to their family members.

ANDREW NEIL: There are still 5 million unvaccinated British adults, who through fear, ignorance, irresponsibility or sheer stupidity refuse to be jabbed. In doing so they endanger not just themselves but the rest of us. Pictured: A NHS Covid pass on a smartphone

ANDREW NEIL: There are still 5 million unvaccinated British adults, who through fear, ignorance, irresponsibility or sheer stupidity refuse to be jabbed. Not only do they put themselves at risk, but also the health of others. Pictured is a NHS Covid pass for a smartphone

The risk of severe illness or hospitalisation is greatly reduced by vaccination. Medical experts agree that vaccines increase your chances of being immune.

Vaccine scepticism in France was rampant at first. But, a week after President Emmanuel Macron declared the vaccine-passport program, a record 3.7million people were booked to receive their shots.

As a result of vaccine passports now being mandatory for most things the French regard as making life worth living — such as going to restaurants, bars and cafés — France has now caught up with countries, such as Britain, which were once far ahead of it in the vaccine stakes.

Both sides of the Channel have almost equal numbers of people who are vaccinated with one jab. France has vaccinated more citizens with one jab than Britain, Germany or Italy — 50 million out of a population of 67 million.

Young French adults, once skeptical about the need for jabs, are now eager to have their vaccine passports. This will allow them to travel out with friends and go out on nights.

Which is a very good reason why Britain should follow the French example — and also take note of what other European countries are doing — and penalise the vaccine refuseniks.

Boris Johnson suggested that there might be stricter guidelines for those who are not vaccinated during a Wednesday press conference.

5 Million British adults are unvaccinated. They not only endanger themselves, but also the health of others.

They will be the ones putting the most strain on the NHS if they get Covid. This means that they can’t afford to treat the other serious non-Covid conditions. This hardcore of unvaccinated people is costing us all a lot.

As long as they can be numbered in the millions, the nation will remain unnecessarily vulnerable to the latest variant, meaning more lockdowns, more restrictions on our lives, more lost jobs, more failing business, less economic growth — all of which will follow the Government’s introduction of its so-called Plan B of enhanced restrictions this week.

However, some people cannot have their vaccines due to medical reasons. Those in that category can be identified and helped with regular testing to make sure they’re Covid-free. 

It is selfish to not vaccinate the rest of us. We all have a responsibility to act in ways that don’t just protect our own health but also that of others.

Pictured: People hold up placards as they march during an anti-vax rally and protest against vaccination and government restrictions designed to control or mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus, including the wearing of masks and lockdowns, in Liverpool last year

Pictured: A crowd of people held placards while marching in an anti-vax demonstration and protest against vaccinations and restrictions by the government to limit or mitigate the spread and control the new coronavirus.

France’s evidence strongly supports the idea that unvaccinated people will be tempted to rush and get jabbed if they see that they are going to pay for it in terms of what they can and cannot do.

I am not, however, in favour of compulsory vaccination and yesterday I was relieved to hear Health Secretary Sajid Javid saying it would be ‘unethical’ to make jabs compulsory after some misinterpreted the Prime Minister’s call for a ‘national conversation on the way forward’ to mean that mandatory jabs were being considered.

It is very British to require vaccination. I don’t understand how you’d do it in a free society. Do we really want to imprison the innocent, make them sit on chairs and then give them needles against their will?

I would not even go as far as Greece, which plans to fine all those over 60 who refuse to be jabbed 100 euros (£85) a month from mid-January until they agree to be vaccinated.

The elderly are more at risk than other age groups and the ones who resist being jabbled are foolish. The over-60s are often quite shrewd, and what happens when thousands of people refuse to pay fines?

Do you think the Greek government will really be able to take in pensioners from its prisons? Perhaps it would be more sensible to offer them 100 Euros to be jabbed.

Austria, which is already back in full lockdown, is also planning to fine adult refuseniks of any age, starting at €3,600 (£3,075) and rising to €7,200 (£6,150). Although Austrians may be more tolerant than Greeks in this regard, I think the policy will face similar problems.

Germany has begun to consider the nuclear option. The newly installed Chancellor Olaf Scholz is in favour of mandatory vaccination and is expected to offer a free vote on the issue in the Bundestag, Berlin’s parliament.

The evidence from France strongly suggests that if the unvaccinated see they will pay a price in terms of where they can go and what they can do, then they will think again and rush to be jabbed. Pictured: A nurse prepares to give a vaccine to a woman in Glasgow on Wednesday

France’s evidence strongly supports the idea that unvaccinated people will rush to get jabbed if they see there is a cost in their ability to travel and do what they want. Pictured: Wednesday in Glasgow, nurse prepares for giving a vaccination to a woman.

As Christmas nears, we are not the only ones imposing new restrictions. In Europe, infections are increasing against the background of growing concerns about Omicron variant.

We can still learn from the actions of other countries, even if they don’t all do it right.

Plans B requires that vaccine passports be obtained in order to enter nightclubs, and major gatherings held at large venues. They could be extended French-style to other places such as bars and restaurants. Even those who are not vaccinated need to eat and take medicines.).

It would give those of us who’ve done the right thing more protection and for those who’ve not, pause for thought.

I’m not impressed by those who claim this is an egregious assault on our freedoms. Unbridled freedom to do whatever you like isn’t liberty. That is what leads to anarchy.

You can’t shout ‘Fire!’ in a crowded cinema if there is no fire. The balance of rights and responsibilities is what makes real liberty possible for everyone.

The right I have to travel to certain African nations is offset by the responsibility of being inoculated against yellow fever prior to my departure. Without being immunized against yellow fever, you cannot practice medicine.

The right of you not to get vaccinated is yours. You cannot be near me, in any restaurant or plane.

As they will begin to be working here in this country next April, it’s absolutely necessary that all those who work in the NHS or social care must be immunized.

Unvaccinated people are putting more limitations on our lives. They should be imposed with them.

Unvaccinated people have the right to not be harmed in a free society. They must realize that their right to not be vaccinated comes with consequences. This will restrict our freedoms and inhibit theirs.

Last thought. Singapore decided that anyone who is not covered by Covid and ends up in hospital will need to pay for the medical expenses.

I doubt we’d ever go that far. But you can see the logic — even the morality — of it.

You can exercise your rights by all means. Be aware of the possible consequences.