Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Government launches vaccine passes, Auckland kids return to class, Waikato to level 2

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The Government is today launching vaccination passes, although the My Covid Record website hit an early stumbling block and crashed under demand this morning.

People trying to access the service – where Kiwis are supposed to be able to request a vaccine pass – were told there were “too many requests” at around 7:15am.

The vaccine passes signal a summer of freedom under the new traffic light system and even travel in the near future for the fully vaccinated. The Government is also due to reveal today when Auckland’s border is expected to open. That is due at 1pm.

The My Vaccine Pass will be an official record of Covid-19 vaccination status, allowing access to things like concerts, festivals, gyms and sports events, as per the new Covid-19 Protection Framework.

From today fully vaccinated people – and the small number with medical exemptions – can request a pass, along with versions to be used internationally.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says anyone who has been vaccinated can now download the vaccine passport; which will then be emailed to them, can be added to a digital wallet or print it out.

Hipkins said the vaccine pass could either be downloaded to a phone or printed on paper.
The system went live today and was able to generate 200 certificates per second, he told Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking.

People were being asked to access it over the next few days to avoid heavy demand.

He thought most people would find it straightforward, and they’d had about 2000 people road test it, many with different levels of digital literacy.

Senior citizens also have the option of making a call to get their certificate instead of having to download or print it out, he said.

As for boosters, Hipkins said decisions haven’t been made around its requirements and how long it should last for.

However, Pfizer’s trials were based on a median gap of up to 11 months and the Government had recommended six.

It was still to be confirmed but he said it was likely that the vaccine certificate will expire after six months.

“When you get your certificate, it will be valid for 6 months. At the end of that six months it will be very clear whether you need to get another one.”

The ability to book your booster shot goes live on November 26.

The vaccination passes will be used under the new framework – also known as the traffic light system for the green, orange and red settings – set to kick in once each DHB has reached 90 per cent full vaccination rates, although the Prime Minister has indicated this could happen soon after a Cabinet meeting on November 29, regardless of the vaccination rates.

Across New Zealand, 90 per cent of those aged over 12 have received one dose and 81 per cent two doses (3.4 million people) of the Pfizer vaccine.

Put to him that people were giving feedback that the website seemed to be overloaded, Hipkins said there were two parts of the process – the first part of which takes the longest.

“The first part is creating My Covid Record, which is something we have been encouraging people to do over the last couple of weeks, they’ve been able to do that for the last few weeks.

“That is actually part of the process that takes the longest. And if people have done that, once they log in to access their My Covid Record and create their certificate, that in itself is a process that takes only a minute or two.”

He said the part that takes the longest is verifying personal ID and information so it can be matched to the vaccination record.

Over a million had already logged their My Covid record over the last few weeks, he said.
“But that still means there are potentially two or two-and-a-half million people trying to do that right now.

“And with them all trying to do that at the same time, that is the slower part of the process.”

Some countries would be easier to verify records than other countries.

The pass announcement comes ahead of another big Government decision today, outlining expected changes to Auckland’s boundaries and how inter-regional travel will work as the city edges closer to 90 pent of its eligible population being fully vaccinated.

Schools are also re-opening today in Auckland and Waikato for Years 1-10.

* 7.07am: Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins explains new vaccine pass system

The National Party has been critical of how long it has taken to have the passes ready.

National leader Judith Collins said today that she had been asking for the vaccine passport since February so she was delighted there was a good announcement today.

Collins told The AM Show that Aucklanders should be able to leave the city when all Auckland DHBs reached the 85 per cent double vaccination target and once the rest of the country was at 80 per cent.

She had not discussed her own summer holiday plans yet with her husband, but was looking forward to having good quality time in Auckland and also spending sometime in Queenstown. She would be giving the hospitality and tourism sector a much needed boost.

In the House yesterday, Covid-19 spokesman Chris Bishop revealed that a contract for the development of the vaccination pass was only signed by the Government a month ago, on October 13.

Bishop said if certificates were in place right now, Aucklanders could leave, hospitality open and people go back to work, and summer events wouldn’t be being cancelled.

Hipkins said work began on other aspects of the process in April and the tender process itself in July.

The fact the certificates were not – as of Tuesday – available to download was not a factor in the current situation in Auckland, Hipkins said.

Under the new framework people will need their vaccine passes in a range of public settings such as events, hospitality, retail, community, sport, and faith-based gatherings.

The pass can be downloaded to a phone digitally or printed out. They will be valid for six months.

People with vaccinations from overseas can also apply, though this could take up to 14 days. People can also apply for international passes from today.

A spokeswoman for the Delegation of the European Union (EU) to New Zealand said these certificates would be accepted under the same conditions as EU certificates.

New Zealand has also agreed to accept the EU certificates here.

On Tuesday a record 222 Covid-19 cases were reported, with 91 people in hospital including seven in ICU or HDU. The ministry also reported a patient in their late 70s at Auckland City Hospital with Covid-19 had died.

Active cases are now in Auckland, Northland, Waikato, Lakes district, Taranaki, Mid Central, Wairarapa and Canterbury.

The case numbers took the rolling seven-day daily average to 187, roughly in line with Government modelling.

Based on that modelling case numbers in the current outbreak are expected to peak in the next two weeks at an average of 200 a day.

The current hospitalisation figures are also in line with modelling, but with fewer people needing ICU than the 15 modelled.

Today Waikato shifts from level 3 to 2, a move that has received mixed views.

Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate said the move was good news, but was mindful it could be temporary with still-rising case numbers.

Māori Covid-19 analyst Dr Rawiri Taonui said moving Waikato to alert level 2 while there were still very low Māori vaccination rates in mid-central, Lakes and Taranaki district health board regions, was “not wise”.

Ōtorohanga mayor Max Baxter said he was “just a bit nervous” about the move, given the relatively low vaccination rates.

Tens of thousands of Auckland school students are also heading back to the classroom today, after vaccine mandates came into force for the education sector on Monday, alongside those for the health sector.

Workers in both sectors need to fully vaccinated by January 1.

Q & A

How do I get My Vaccine Pass?

People who are fully vaccinated can sign up at My Covid Record or call or call 0800 222 478.

The “My Vaccine Pass” will include a person’s name, date of birth and a QR code. This can be saved on a digital device, like a phone, or printed as a physical copy.

Where will it be needed?

Under the Covid Protection Framework people will be required to show a My Vaccine Pass as proof of vaccination status in a range of public settings such as events, hospitality, retail, community, sport, and faith-based gatherings.

This is to reduce the risk of spreading the virus and to protect vulnerable populations.

These are not required to access supermarkets, pharmacies, all health and disability services, food banks or petrol stations. Proof of vaccination is also not required in education settings, on all public transport (other than air travel), accessing housing and housing support services under state sector agencies.

Children under the age of 12 are not required to show proof of vaccination.

International passes

People can request international vaccine passes now. These are currently recognised by the EU, with more countries expected to follow.

It’s anticipated that the need for proof of a vaccine certification when travelling internationally will be in place for years to come.

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