Government only sought advice on COVID-19 vaccine passes a month after Delta outbreak

Bar owners are fuming after learning the Government was advised not to require vaccine passes for hospitality

It's not the only advice Cabinet ignored - Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield wanted to wait until 5-11-year-olds were vaccinated to switch over to the traffic light system.

Panhead bar owner Matt McLaughlin is finding it increasingly difficult to run his business. The vaccine passes are an added stress.

"They're really labour intensive. The technology itself is quite simple to use, but, you know, having to throw someone at the front door," he told Newshub. 

And had the Government followed officials' advice, he wouldn't have to. 

"That's really upsetting. Our businesses are really suffering. It's hard enough as it is," McLaughlin said. 

Documents show officials offered three options: 

  • A) what we have now: wide application of the vaccination certificates,  including bars, restaurants and cafes
  • B) a more targeted approach: just for large gatherings and events.
  • C) having no government requirements at all: the private sector determining use 

Officials recommended option B - just the high risk events - saying it provided the best balance of risk mitigation, public acceptability and ease of implementation and that inclusiveness, social licence and equity needed to be considered.

"The health advice has been critical all the way through but we have not - right from the beginning - always word-for-word followed the health advice," COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told Newshub. 

Health officials also wanted the Government to hold off switching to the traffic light system until 90 percent of everyone over the age of 5 - and 90 percent of Māori and Pasifika - were vaccinated.

They told ministers that would minimise hospitalisation and death while allowing for as much social and economic activity as possible.

"I'm a big supporter of the new framework and in fact, you could say I've sort of changed my mind on that," Dr Bloomfield said on Friday.

Hipkins denies putting Māori at risk.

"No. We've obviously kept our vulnerable communities in mind as we've decided which colours each region goes into."

The documents also show the Government didn't even get advice on vaccine passes until September 17 - exactly a month after the Delta outbreak hit New Zealand. 

And despite countries all over the world already rolling them out, it proves once again the Government wasn't prepared for Delta.