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Covid-19 vaccine passports 'almost an inevitability' within next year - Chris Hipkins

Covid-19 vaccine passports will be "almost an inevitability" within the next year, according to Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins.

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The Covid-19 Response Minister said everyone in New Zealand will "not necessarily" need to be vaccinated before allowing in people from overseas, however. Source: Q+A

"New Zealand's actively involved in the conversations around vaccine passports," he told Q+A this morning.

"I think vaccine passports are almost an inevitability at some point in the future and probably the not-too-distant future, I think that's likely to happen."

A vaccine passport is a way of people being able to easily show and prove they've been vaccinated for Covid-19, usually discussed in the context of overseas travel.

In the UK, it's also being discussed as a possibility to require the vaccine passport for visiting busy domestic locations too, such as the gym or a restaurant.

Hipkins said while there is "a lot of water to flow under the bridge very quickly," he believes the vaccine passport is "highly likely to be something people will need to get" within the next year.

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Vaccines will need to be available to everyone before requiring a vaccine passport to travel can be mandatory, he added.

"You couldn't say to someone, 'You can't travel until you've had a vaccine', if that person couldn't get a vaccine," Hipkins said.

However, he said they may not require everyone in New Zealand to be vaccinated before people from overseas can enter the country.

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He said studies carried out overseas are within the wider global context of "widespread community transmission" and "in New Zealand, that's not the context".

"Very few [countries] are in the position New Zealand's in, so if you look at other research they're doing on transmission of the virus to air conditioning systems, no one else is looking at that because no one else really cares," he said.

"In the context of person-to-person spread being the biggest transmitter, they're not looking at air conditioning systems as we are."

He said New Zealand could have "quite different border settings to the ones we have now" as vaccines are rolled out across the globe and there is a greater understanding of "what that means in terms of transmissibility of the vaccine".

"As we get to a position where vaccines are part of the global picture, that will probably have an impact on our border as we can open up safe travel areas with other countries - Australia, the Pacific - we will absolutely be doing that.

"All of those things are happening. There's a bit of uncertainty around all of those as well because there's uncertainty around vaccines, but we're working hard to try and give that certainty."

While on Q+A this morning, the minister also confirmed there were no new Covid-19 cases to report in the community overnight. The formal update by the Ministry of Health is due at 1pm.