The Government has launched its long-awaited vaccine pass, with those who are fully vaccinated able to download a pass later on Wednesday morning.
The “My Vaccine Pass” will take the form of a QR code that can be shown digitally or on printed paper, allowing venues to check whether a person has been vaccinated against Covid-19 or not.
Under the traffic-light system the Government is keen to move the country to soon, the passes will be needed to attend large festivals and any other venue that chooses to require them. Venues that choose to require them will be able to operate more freely, even when there is Covid-19 in the community.
It’s still unclear if the vaccine passes would be needed to leave Auckland over the summer. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is set to announce more details on the plans for Auckland’s border over the summer at 1pm on Wednesday.
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Covid-19 Minister Chris Hipkins said the passes would allow the 3.4 million people who had received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine to enjoy “extra freedoms” over the summer.
“We’re asking fully vaccinated New Zealanders to get ready for summer by requesting their pass,” Hipkins said.
“It is your official proof of vaccination and a ticket to enjoy the extra freedoms that will come with the COVID-19 Protection Framework. To get one, people will need to be fully vaccinated or be one of the very small number of Kiwis who has received a medical exemption.”
Those who have had both doses will be able to log into mycovidrecord.nz and request a pass from Wednesday morning – or ring 0800 222 478.
The pass will include a person’s name, date of birth, and a QR code. It can be saved to a phone wallet or printed out.
However, it will expire after six months.
The “small number” of people unable to get the vaccine for medical reasons will also be eligible for the pass, and children under the age of 12 will not be required to show proof of vaccination anywhere.
Vaccine passes will not be required at schools, supermarkets, or other “essential” businesses.
The Government has hinted that eventually a booster shot may be needed to keep a vaccine pass current, but have said that could be some time off.
Hipkins said it was likely that there could be some overload on the system on Wednesday, but people should be patient.
“People can log in from later this morning, but we’re asking for patience and for people to wait for a couple of days to ease any demand on the IT system and call centre staff,” Hipkins said.
“The pass will mean people will be able to do the things they love, like going to concerts and music festivals, nights out at bars and restaurants, and going to the gym and sports events.”
“We don’t want anyone to miss out, so we’re strongly encouraging those who’ve been putting off getting a vaccine to take that step now, as we prepare to transition into the COVID-19 Protection Framework.”
People will be able to request a separate vaccine certificate for overseas travel if required. The European Union announced on Tuesday it would recognise New Zealand’s vaccine certificate.
Anyone who was vaccinated overseas will also be able to request a vaccine pass, but this could take up to two weeks.
National has been repeatedly criticising the Government for the lack of a vaccine pass system.
The party’s Covid-19 spokesman Chris Bishop noted on Tuesday that the contract for the delivery of the vaccine pass was only signed on October 13.
“It’s been obvious to everyone since the start of the year that New Zealand would need proof of vaccination and a vaccine certificate in some form, but only in recent months has the Government bothered to do any work to get a scheme ready.”
“If we had vaccine certificates right now, Auckland would be a markedly different place. Aucklanders could leave the region and travel to see loved ones. Hospitality could open. People could go back to work.”
National has also said some sort of sunset clause is needed on the use of such passes.