Even though the cat has been out of the bag for weeks the government has created the impression this is just about international travel.
From September 12
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says Cabinet has agreed to the use of vaccine certificates in New Zealand.
New Zealand’s “vaccine passport” is likely to be a digital Covid-19 vaccination certificate containing a QR code.
A vaccine certificate is proof that you have been vaccinated and is now common overseas, Ardern says.
More details will be shared in coming weeks, but for now the certificates will be used as a tool in high-risk settings including large events and the government is consulting on their use in places like hospitality.
It will not be used for places like supermarkets or essential health services. It will be available either in digital form on smartphones or can be downloaded and printed out.
They are likely to start being used in November.
Watch the announcement:
Ardern said “please get vaccinated now, summer is close. And so to be fully vaccinated and fully protected and do the things you love, you need to be vaccinated this month, not in December”.
The best Christmas present to your family this year would be to get vaccinated, Ardern said.
Ministry of Health officials Shayne Hunter (Deputy Director-General Data and Digital) and Michael Dreyer (General Manager, National Digital Services) said they would be making access to vaccination records available “soon”.
Within a few weeks of that – late this month – test results should be available via the My Covid Record, and after that the downloadable certificates will be accessible around November.
People wanting to access their record will be able to access it using a My Health account or RealMe. They will be able to create an account if they do not already have one.
The record will show details including batch number, site, and which arm was used. Second vaccinations can also be booked through the system.
Watch: How My Covid Record will work
There will be an app available for verification, and it should be able to be used either on a mobile device, on a website or using printouts.
They say it will be reachable from the current Covid app, but it is not part of the app because of privacy settings that are required.
They intend to keep the paper form available to people who don’t have access to digital technology.
Ardern says they are also looking at ways that people can visit a health professional and have a certificate printed out for them.
Large scale events are likely to make the use of the certificates mandatory, and while they may not be mandated in smaller settings those venues may consider using it themselves. The government is still considering its options about whether the certificates will be mandatory in some of those gatherings.
“That is an area where we are going to be very cautious and also learn from overseas,” Ardern said.
The technology was being trialled and it was being widely used by some individuals, she said.
The government is also still considering when the certificate will take effect for individuals who have been vaccinated. People are considered fully vaccinated after a second dose but they are not considered fully immunised until two weeks after they have had their second dose.
Ardern said clear advice would be supplied about where the certificates cannot and should not be used.
“The best way to guarantee your entry into a summer festival is to be vaccinated,” she said.
The system could in future be adapted to take account of vaccinations administered overseas, and certification offered by other countries.
This morning, Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said mandating vaccinations was doubtful, but vaccine certificates were likely to be introduced in the near future.
Businesses are asking the government for more clarity on how they will be affected by the rollout of a vaccine certificate for domestic use.
From November, the public will be able to download or print their vaccine certificate containing a QR code.
The government has confirmed they will be required at large, high-risk events like festivals, while they won’t be needed to access essential services.
Cabinet is working to determine how widely they will be used and more information will be made available in a few weeks.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said there were there are other critical aspects the government still needs to iron out the details on.
This includes the rules for individual businesses which want to use the certificate to turn away customers.
“Areas where we would likely mandate those higher risk settings… How do we create a legal framework where we haven’t mandated but someone wants to use it? How do we create a legal framework for them to be able to if it’s within certain parameters?
“And areas where you cannot use it. So there are some areas where we would want to be very explicit, that you should never withhold services that are essential; food, access to health services, pharmacies and so on.”
The government is talking to the hospitality industry but some cafes and restaurants have already stated publicly they do not want to ban unvaccinated customers or staff.
Greg Harford from Retail NZ said compulsory use seems unlikely in his sector although there are businesses who like the idea.
There are also those who would struggle to enforce a ban – that’s why he would like them to have a choice.
“The biggest thing the government can do to help in this space is to explicitly give businesses the power to require their staff to be vaccinated, if the employer thinks that’s required. That could also extend to customers.
“What’s important is every business is able to make its own decision on these issues.”
He also wanted much clearer detail on what will be considered an essential service which cannot turn unvaccinated people away.
“There has been significant confusion around what constitutes an essential product at various alert levels. I think as long as the government is clear about what it is defining as essential for the purposes of vaccination certificates, that will help resolve some of those issues.”
Grey Power apprehensive over tech issues
Jo Miller from Grey Power is worried about those who may struggle to use the technology to download a certificate.
“I do think the government has a responsibility to make sure, even if they ask for assistance or help to do it, but to make it easier for those sorts of people to be able to access it so that they feel free to go out and about and that if they want to go to summer events with their family they can comfortably go.”
There is some reassurance from Dr Andrew Chen, an expert on digital technology.
He said the certificate system was first and foremost paper based with an app as an add-on for convenience.
“The app is just to improve convenience, in that you have one less piece of paper to carry around. Hopefully, that won’t exclude too many people.
“Anybody who needs a certificate will hopefully be able to go to a library or Citizens Advice Bureau or go and find a family member who can help them register for My Covid Record and then generate and print a certificate for themselves if they need one.”
But he is worried about what it all means for those who have legitimate medical reasons for not being vaccinated.
“It may be safer for someone who is immunocompromised, for example, to not go to a festival but you want to make sure that they can still participate in society and not live in a second class of society. So we need to hear a bit more about how the system will be managed for those people.”
The government is set to release further details in the coming weeks.