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As Sydney and parts of NSW prepare to open from lockdown next month, the state government has shared more information about how it plans to roll out vaccine passports.
Venues including pubs, restaurants and hairdressers will be allowed to reopen to fully vaccinated customers the Monday after NSW hits 70 per cent vaccination coverage of people aged 16 and older.
Projections put the state’s reopening date as Monday, October 11.
Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello said the government was developing a system that will integrate vaccine certificates into the Service NSW app, and the design was “pretty much there”.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said Mr Dominello was “busily working with the Commonwealth” to access the data to allow the state to have its vaccine passport available via the Service NSW app.
Mr Dominello said the information was being obtained from the federal government through the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR).
People will be able to provide consent for their vaccination status to go into the app.
Mr Dominello conceded the passports will probably not be ready when the state is due to reopen, with a two-week pilot program starting on October 6.
“Right now, there are other options of showing your vaccination status,” he said. “This is just to make it easier for people.“
Mr Dominello said the trial in regional NSW will involve between 100 and 500 volunteers, and include industries such as aged care facilities and community clubs.
“We decided against Sydney because we don’t want to create the honey-pot effect,” he said. “If you create one location in Sydney everyone will be drawn to it, whereas in the regions, they’re already quasi-opened up anyway.
“It will be by invitation.”
Mr Dominello noted proof of full vaccination can be shown on a COVID-19 digital certificate issued through Medicare, which can also be uploaded to smartphone wallets.
He said the certificate can be downloaded from the Medicare Express app, and also placed into a Google Wallet or Apple Wallet. It is also accessible on Medicare online accounts through myGov.
For those who don’t have a smartphone, Mr Dominello said Services Australia advises calling the AIR on 1800 653 809 to have a copy of your immunisation history posted, which may take up to 14 days to arrive.
The purpose of the passport through Service NSW is to simplify the venue check-in process, so people don’t have to juggle separate apps for QR codes and proof of vaccination.
“What we’ll be doing is integrating that and providing people with the option of then having it in their Service [NSW] app to make it really easy when they’re checking in to venues across NSW,” he said.
“You open up one app, the Service NSW app, on that app it will enable you to check in and at the same time, on that same screen, it will show your vaccination status.”
Speaking of the draft, Mr Dominello said an additional privacy feature had been added, allowing the user to “show more” or “show less” of their vaccination status.
“There are a couple of security measures we’ll be building in and one of them is having a hologram on the face of the app,” he said, similar to the Waratah hologram used on a digital driver’s licence.
“Another feature we’ll be implementing towards the middle of October is another QR code … to validate that it’s a legitimate Service NSW product, as opposed to a forgery.”
He will address additional features around security as the design is finalised.
Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello and Premier Gladys Berejiklian. Credit:James Brickwood
Businesses will need to take reasonable steps to ensure patrons are adhering to the rules, and while they are not expected to be law enforcement agencies, they “can’t turn a blind eye”, Mr Dominello said.
“The framework will be basically the same as what we’ve done with the QR codes,” he said. “The responsibility must rest on the individual.”
He said penalties of imprisonment and hefty fines exist for any offending, and for individuals who deliberately do the wrong thing and “get found out, there could be jail time”.
Ms Berejiklian sought to assure the industry the government would have a similar compliance regime to before the Delta outbreak.
“We’ll make [it] very clear what responsibilities individuals and businesses have in making sure everybody complies,” she said. “It won’t be very different to what happened beforehand but, of course, as we get closer to that time, we’ll remind everybody what the expectations are.”
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