Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promises 'extra support around compliance' for hairdressers ahead of COVID-19 vaccine pass trial

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is promising "extra support around compliance" for hairdressers ahead of their COVID-19 vaccine certificate trial in Auckland. 

Ardern on Monday announced that New Zealand will shift to the new 'traffic light' system on December 3, and from Thursday hairdressers can welcome vaccinated customers as a vaccine pass trial run. 

The trial will come just three days after COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced that the free NZ Pass Verifier app to scan and verify My Vaccine Passes is now available to download.

With hairdressers set to be the first businesses checking vaccine certificates, at a time when anti-vaxxers are threatening MPs and marching against mandates, Ardern said extra support will be available.

"We will be making sure that we've got extra support around compliance and extra advice, particularly as we all move into the new framework," Ardern told reporters on Tuesday. 

"Ultimately though, the decision around enforcement and compliance and how that's operationalised is made on the ground. But I know we'll want to make sure that our hairdressers feel safe at a time when they might particularly be inundated with those wanting their services."

Ardern isn't too concerned about hairdressers facing aggression. 

"It's good to remember we're not the first country in the world to use vaccine passes. They're widely used in other countries and widely accepted," she said. 

"When you take into account that we now have over 90 percent of New Zealanders who have had their first dose, you can see it's widely accepted here too. 

"We will want to make sure we've got support, particularly around hospitality, but they are used to undertaking checks around, for instance, age and having to deal with patrons who perhaps have had a little too much indulgence. 

"They have had practices to deal with these issues and we want to make sure that they're really supported for the next phase."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo credit: Newshub

Ardern said hairdressers don't have to use the verifier app. 

"The verifier app is a handy tool but it is not a requirement in order to operate. You can cite someone's vaccine pass, if you have any concerns you can ask for verifying ID if you would like, and it's not different to what most countries around the world are doing."

Nearly 1.4 million My Vaccine Passes have been generated so far. They will be necessary to access hospitality venues, gyms, events and other close-contact businesses when New Zealand shifts to the new COVID Protection Framework next Friday. 

Next Monday, on November 29, Ardern will announce at what level of the traffic light system each region will begin. It will largely depend on vaccination levels, except for Auckland due to it being the Delta outbreak epicentre. 

The latest Ministry of Health data shows 12 District Health Boards (DHBs) have reached the 90 percent first dose vaccination milestone, meaning they could potentially start at 'orange' while Auckland and areas with low rates could enter 'red'. No region will start at 'green'. 

Even at 'green', restrictions remain for those businesses that don't use vaccine certificates. For example, hospitality venues that don't use the passes will only be allowed to welcome up to 100 guests while those that do use them will have no limits. 

"In the same way we were pragmatic about Auckland when they hit 90 percent first dose, we'll be pragmatic about those other decisions when we come to move the rest of the country into the framework," Ardern said on Tuesday. 

"Yes, high vaccination rates is a factor, but you can see in Auckland it would make no sense to move into the new framework and then immediately move up the scale and loosen restrictions straight away. 

"We've still got an outbreak, we still want to see the impact of easing on that outbreak, and it stands the rest of the country in good stead if we've got good management of what's happening in Auckland."

Ardern said the popularity of holiday spots will be a deciding factor.

"Yes, in fact part of our work on stress testing the systems of different DHBs has been to identify the top hotspots for people to travel into. Keeping in mind that most travellers will be highly, highly vaccinated this summer."

Auckland's COVID-19 border controls will drop on December 15, meaning Kiwis will have the freedom to roam the country just in time for Christmas and the summer break. 

Travellers will need to show their vaccination certificate or proof of a negative test result in order to enter or leave Auckland or else face a $1000 fine. Police intend to conduct spot checks. The requirements will be in place until January 17.