Questions continue to be raised around New Zealand’s creation of a Covid passport for Kiwis and businesses with one expert stating if they are introduced, it would need to fit Aotearoa’s unique environment.
Covid passports are already in use globally with places such as Australia, the US and the UK all implementing them for use by businesses where close-proximity gathering can occur such as restaurants, theatres or night clubs.
Q+A revealed Sunday morning the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has confirmed a proof of vaccination system is in development for domestic use in New Zealand.
The news comes with mixed reactions as Retail NZ told Q+A about a third of its members surveyed support the use of passports currently while the Employers and Manufacturers Association said passes are “almost an inevitability”.
The Dairy Business Owners Association on the other hand said the passes are already eight months too late.
For Dr Andrew Chen, a Research Fellow with Koi Tū: The Centre for Informed Futures at the University of Auckland, the big question lies with how the passport will be used.
“Vaccine certificates can be a good tool if used in the correct way,” Chen told Q+A.
“I think in an international context, they’re quite similar to a visa…but in a domestic case, I think we have to really think about how it’s going to be used.
“It’s all well and good for folks who are vaccinated, but we have to really think about what we’re going to do for someone who isn’t vaccinated or have a certificate.”
Chen said his concerns with domestic use of Covid passports focus on the inequities currently present in New Zealand society.
“For example, we know that Māori and Pasifika are more likely not to be vaccinated, we know that young people are more likely not to be vaccinated and there are going to be people with legitimate grounds to not be vaccinated such as religion or their health,” he said.
“Depending on the types of businesses that require you to show a proof of vaccination, it could lead to pretty bad discrimination.”
Chen said an example of a difficult situation where the certificate could have a negative impact is at supermarkets where people could be denied access to food and necessities if confirmation of vaccination was required.
Chen’s other concern is the possibility of individuals having to handle information and situations of a serious nature at their daily jobs.
“You don’t really want your 17-year-old retail worker to try and figure out which medical conditions mean that someone is allowed in or not.”
If the passports are introduced, Chen said the Government needs to keep their focus inwards in the creation process rather than draw inspiration from overseas.
“We can be informed by what is happening overseas but the discussion that we are having has to be done in the New Zealand context.
“I’m very aware that people are influenced by what they’re seeing overseas…but we need to make sure those rules are fit for purpose here.”
There are benefits to the passports though, Chen admitted.
“In terms of opening up the economy and allowing people who have been vaccinated to have a bit more freedom, then vaccine passports are one way to provide confidence to people that they can move around in a safe way,” he said.
“That’s probably the key advantage people are looking for.”