National's Judith Collins wants COVID-19 vaccine certificates ditched after 90 pct target is reached

National is calling on the Government to ditch vaccine certificates after 90 percent of the eligible population has been vaccinated against COVID-19. 

It comes after the Government announced mandatory vaccinations for hospitality and close-contact businesses - sectors that will now join healthcare, education and the border workforce. 

Collins, who earlier on Tuesday said she supported vaccine certificates but also didn't want "two classes of people" in society, later added that she believes the certificates should no longer be required once 90 percent of the eligible population is jabbed. 

"The National Party doesn't agree with the Government in their plan to impose restrictions with the mandatory use of vaccine certificates after we have hit their vaccine target of 90 percent across all DHBs," Collins said. 

"Once the target is achieved, National supports the existing rights of all private businesses to choose who they do business with. Some businesses will choose to require proof of vaccination. Others will not.

"Proof of vaccination should be available to all vaccinated New Zealanders so they can engage with private businesses who require it and so they can travel overseas. It should not be a long term tool for the Government to separate New Zealanders."

With vaccine certificates set to be available in November, the Government would be ditching them potentially after only a couple of months in use, if National's advice was followed. 

Collins says they should have been implemented sooner. 

"The Government should have begun work on providing proof of vaccination long ago - perhaps when I first enquired about it in the House in February."

Collins' comments came after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced plans to introduce a simplified risk assessment process for employers to follow when deciding whether they can require vaccination for different types of work.

Under the law change, unvaccinated workers in roles requiring vaccination will be given a new four-week notice period to get vaccinated before employment can be terminated. 

Employers will also be required to provide paid time off for workers to get vaccinated and will need to keep records about workers' vaccination status.

Vaccination certificates will play a major role in the Government's new COVID Protection Framework, or 'traffic light' system, to replace the alert levels. It comes into force once 90 percent of the eligible population is vaccinated. 

Since Auckland has been in lockdown for months and is close to reaching the target, it could enter the traffic light framework sooner. 

Once the traffic light framework comes into force, vaccination certificates will play a major role in determining what freedoms people have. For example, when Auckland enters the Red light, hospitality venues will be able to open with up to 100 people who are fully vaccinated, but for businesses that choose not to use vaccine certificates, only contactless hospitality will be allowed.

With all of the vaccine mandates in force, Ardern said up to 40 percent of the workforce will be required to be vaccinated to keep their job. However, she said employers will have to try and redeploy unvaccinated staff if they can. 

Ardern promised unvaccinated people will still be able to access essential services such as supermarkets and pharmacies, and they will not lose access to welfare. 

Collins fears a divided society. 

"In the National Party we know that supportive discussions and openness are far more productive means to encourage vaccine-hesitant people to get the COVID vaccine," she said. 

"Alienating, bullying, and vilifying are simply a sure way to divide our country and push people away."

Vaccination certificates will fall under current COVID-19 legislation, which needs to be renewed by Parliament periodically, so there is essentially a sunset clause for them.