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New systems: A new vaccine pass is being developed, expected to be downloadable by the end of this month

By GUY WILLIAMS

Aucklanders in Queenstown before Christmas, Australians here early next year, with the rest of the world following on their heels.

Queenstown Chamber of Commerce boss Ruth Stokes says that’s how finance minister and deputy PM Grant Robertson described the government’s expectations for the opening of New Zealand’s economy to a Covid world during a webinar on Tuesday.

Robertson told participants the government’s ‘‘committed to international border reopening in the first quarter of next year’’, while Aucklanders are likely to be out of lockdown before Christmas.

Stokes says the government’s rushing through legislation, to take effect by December 1, aimed at giving employers legal certainty for requiring their staff to be fully vaccinated.

The new law and other measures, such as health orders, are paving the way for a system of ‘‘vaccine passes’’ for consumers and ‘‘vaccination certificates’’ for businesses, other organisations and events.

‘‘So if you’re a business that has to operate under a vaccine certificate, that will de facto mean a mandatory vaccine requirement for customers, suppliers and staff — so anyone on
those premises,’’ Stokes says.

The government’s already indicated vaccine passes will be needed for large public  gatherings, like concerts and sporting events, and venues where the virus spreads easily,
such as bars and restaurants.

However, the system won’t kick in until the country moves from the Alert Level system into the ‘traffic light’ system, announced on October 26.

Under current policy, that will be when every health board region has 90% of its eligible population double-vaccinated.

Return to ‘Covid normal’ soon

Tracy Pool, group general manager for 10 Queenstown bars, says the return of a full domestic visitor market some time next month, with Australia and the rest of the world to
follow in the new year, would be a ‘‘godsend’’.

Most of all, it gives the embattled sector hope.

‘‘That’s all we need, that piece of hope that we’re going back to normal — the Covid normal,’’ Pool says.

She has no doubt the resort’s hospo sector will adopt the vaccine pass and certification system en masse.

‘‘They have to — we need that certainty, and that’s the only way we’re going to get it.

‘‘It’s safety for your customers and for your staff.’’

Pool says provided the legal framework’s in place to protect businesses, ‘‘we’ll do anything
that makes this work’’.

‘‘We haven’t gone through these last 18 months of absolute hell to stumble at the last hurdle.

‘‘If the playing field is even, and everyone’s singing off the same hymn sheet, everyone will embrace it.’’

She also doubts there are many hospo workers left in the resort holding out against getting vaccinated.

‘‘There may be some who object to this, but if they do, then that’s on them.

‘‘Because unfortunately the rest of the world’s saying, ‘you need to get on board’.’’

Vax passports are ‘just what we’ll do’

Questions still remain: Queenstown Chamber of Commerce boss Ruth Stokes

Stokes says the Ministry of Health’s working on the vaccine pass, which is expected to be
downloadable by the end of the month.

It’ll have a QR code, which can be saved on a smartphone or printed out, which people will
scan as they enter a business or venue.

They must have been vaccinated in NZ or overseas with another approved vaccine, or have
medical clearance for being unvaxxed.

‘‘We’ll move from the contact tracing and scanning-in to a mandatory pass-in — it’ll just be what we do,’’ Stokes says.

Businesses are hungry for more information about how the system will work.

‘‘They know it’s coming soon, and that they’ll need to work through the practical implementation of it.

‘‘Is it going to be as simple as an iPad or a phone that people can scan into, or are they going to need an extra person at the door?’’

Another question will be what happens if someone’s vaccine pass ‘‘comes up red instead of green’’ when they try to enter a venue.

‘‘Does that mean you’re going to have to sit in the middle of The Mall in the naughty corner while the rest of your mates are in the bar?’’

guy.williams@scene.co.nz