Kiwis are now able to download their ticket to freedom - if they can get on the website.
As of Wednesday morning, people will be able to download their vaccine certificates - a document that certifies its holder is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 - via the Ministry of Health's platform, My COVID Record.
The certificates, My Vaccine Pass, are set to become an integral part of the 'classic Kiwi summer', with the document serving as a key to festivals, events - even a meal out with friends - under the upcoming COVID-19 Protection Framework. The new 'traffic light' framework will replace the existing alert level system when 90 percent of eligible Kiwis are fully vaccinated - scrapping lockdowns for good.
Under the new system, freedoms will be determined by vaccine certificates. For example, under the 'red' setting, hospitality venues will be able to open with up to 100 fully vaccinated people, but businesses that opt not to use the certificates must continue with contactless trade. The Government has already signalled the certificates will be mandated for the events sector, meaning anyone hoping to attend a concert this summer will be required to present their pass to gain entry.
But COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins admitted to The AM Show on Wednesday that the site is already struggling to cope with the demand. As of 7am, the website was already crashing for Kiwis attempting to access their certificate.
It's currently unclear when the pass will be available to download on Wednesday morning. The statement from Hipkins' office did not provide a specific time.
"My understanding is that the system is struggling to cope with the demand, on one [hand] that's a good sign. The system can produce about 200 certificates per second but there's a lot of people trying to log in," Hipkins told The AM Show.
The minister said the process will take a bit longer for Kiwis who did not create their My COVID Record account a few weeks ago when the site was first launched.
"The people it will take the longest for are the people who haven't [created] their My COVID Record... for the people who have already created their account, the process of downloading their certificate should only take a minute or two. For the people who still need to create their account, it will take a little bit longer."
Hipkins said he expects the legal framework will be passed by Parliament next week, which will allow the Government to mandate vaccine certificates in a number of settings. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has already said the certificates will not be required to access essential services, such as supermarkets and healthcare.
"We're expecting the legal framework around that to be passed by Parliament next week - that will allow us to mandate the use of vaccine certificates in certain settings. We expect that before the end of the year, we'll be moving to that new 'traffic light' framework and we'll set out more about that later on today."
Meanwhile, Hipkins signalled that a date will finally be set on Wednesday for when Auckland's regional boundary can open, allowing desperate residents to resume interregional travel and reconnect with loved ones this Christmas.
The tightly controlled border, patrolled by police-manned checkpoints, continues to ringfence the region - the epicentre of the ongoing outbreak of the Delta variant - in a bid to curb the spread of the virus. The Government has repeatedly promised that Aucklanders, who are now enduring their 13th week of restrictions, will be able to escape for a much-needed break this summer. However, it's still unclear what criteria Aucklanders will need to meet to be able to travel, and how the influx of vehicles will be managed at the border.
Hipkins said that information will be provided on Wednesday to give Aucklanders more certainty in the lead-up to the festive season.
"I'm aware that Aucklanders are looking for certainty and people with loved ones are looking for a bit more certainty around when they will be able to reconnect, and what the conditions for travel across the border might be. We want to see Aucklanders be able to travel for summer. They've done the hard yards on behalf of all New Zealanders over the last couple of months and I think they've earned a summer break," he said.
"We'll set out a bit more detail about what that's going to look like, but we're absolutely committed to making sure Aucklanders get a summer holiday."
The minister also indicated that the COVID-19 Protection Framework could be closer than expected. Cabinet is set to meet on November 29 to assess the vaccination rates and decide whether it's time to transition to the new system, which would see a return to some sort of pre-pandemic normality - but with masks and vaccine passports.
"One of the reasons we've set that check-in date, rather than saying, 'you get to 90 percent and it happens automatically', we deliberately set that check-in date at the end of November so that we can make some pragmatic decisions about that," Hipkins said.
"So if we're at very, very high rates and there are some areas that are just below that 90 percent threshold, but they're over 90 percent for their first doses, we want to be able to be a bit sensible about that. Hence that's why we've set that as the date that we'll review that information."
The announcement regarding the future of Auckland's boundary is expected later on Wednesday.