New South Wales residents are being warned to expect “clunky” customer service as they return to cafes and pubs a week before the state’s vaccine passport is due for release.
Shops and hospitality venues on Monday will throw open their doors to fully vaccinated customers for the first time since Greater Sydney went into lockdown on June 26.
But patrons will have to prove their vaccination status to business owners without the help of the state government’s much-vaunted ‘VaxPass’.
Digital Minister Victor Dominello said a trial of the vaccine check-in service involving 500 Australians was under way in Wagga Wagga, Lismore, Tamworth and Port Macquarie.
But the app will be unavailable to the public for another week, as the government has “to make sure that we have the privacy and security settings in place, in preparation for statewide rollout commencing the week of 18 October”.
“I want to say that we only just got the [vaccine] information from the federal government about a week ago, so we are moving heaven and earth, at pace, to deliver this for the people of our state,” Mr Dominello told reporters on Sunday.
The service will allow residents – via the existing Service NSW app – to check into a venue and prove to the owner they are fully vaccinated in one seamless process.
But until its launch, customers will have to check in via the Service NSW app, and then separately show the venue owner either a paper certificate from Services Australia, a digital certificate housed in the Medicare Express Plus app, or a digital certificate housed in a Google or Apple mobile wallet.
Former Liberal MP and publican Craig Laundy said the next week would “be a little clunky” as a result.
“We’re going to have to rely on the Medicare app, the MyGov app … so just be patient, be calm, and let us deal with it.”
To speed up the entry process, Mr Laundy advised patrons to take a screenshot of their digital vaccine certificate and set it as the wallpaper on their phone’s lock screen.
“Then you can just merely come up, [and] show it to our staff on the front door,” he said.
“It will be a far quicker process for us to get you in and get you seated and enjoying things.”
In addition to the technological challenges, business owners face a difficult task in enforcing the state government’s vaccine requirements.
NSW Health said in a statement earlier this month that businesses faced $5000 fines for failing to stop unvaccinated customers from entering their venues.
Authorities said businesses must check the vaccination status of customers upon entry and display Service NSW QR codes and prominent signs stating the vaccination requirements.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet conceded on Sunday that this would be particularly challenging for smaller businesses.
But he said business owners told him they were “excited and confident” about reopening and that the NSW VaxPass was a bonus and “not essential”.
“What’s essential is that people are able to demonstrate their vaccination status,” Mr Perrottet said.
“You can do that through your MyGov app. You can do it through a Services Australia certificate. And then, if this trial is successful with Service NSW, which I have every confidence that it will be, then you’ll have a seamless transition when you work in.”
Last week, Mr Perrottet sped up the state’s reopening plan amid reports that the chief health officer, Kerry Chant, disagreed with the accelerated easing of restrictions.
Dr Chant was absent from the press conference announcing the changes.
The Premier has also told the Nine Newspapers that he wants to restart international travel for fully vaccinated residents ahead of schedule on November 1.