A vaccine passport trial is due to kick off in regional New South Wales on Wednesday, ahead of the state reopening to fully vaccinated adults on October 11.
These vaccine passports – or, more accurately, digital proofs of vaccination – will be integrated into the Service NSW app, allowing people to scan a QR code in a similar way to how they already check in to businesses.
But key details remain unclear, such as where the pilot program will take place, and whether the state-wide rollout will happen as previously scheduled.
Digital Minister Victor Dominello’s office has been tight-lipped with the details, failing to respond to The New Daily’s repeated requests for comment on Tuesday.
Here’s a round-up of what we know, and what we don’t.
The Australian Financial Review reports that vaccine passports are still on track to be trialled this week.
The government is taking on much of the development itself, instead of outsourcing the technical components.
“It’s absolutely essential in an age that is dominated by pace and agility that governments build their own internal capability that can partner with and collaborate with external partners to develop new products and services,” Mr Dominello told the newspaper on Sunday.
“You need a critical mass of human capital so that you can build that furnace of capability.”
The government said it has been consulting industry about vaccine passports.
But organisations such as Ai Group told The New Daily it had had little say on the when and where of the trial.
Starting in the regions
In September, Mr Dominello said a two-week pilot would involve between 100 and 500 people in regional NSW.
He has yet to reveal the specific location of the trial.
“We decided against Sydney because we don’t want to create a honeypot effect,” Mr Dominello told reporters at the time.
“Because if you create one location in Sydney, then everyone will be drawn to it, whereas in the regions, they’re already quasi-opened up anyway.”
If the government waits until the two-week pilot is finished to roll out vaccine passports across the state, it would mean they wouldn’t be ready in time for businesses to open on October 11.
Potential fines on the way
When vaccine passports are rolled out statewide, they will be an essential tool for making sure that only fully vaccinated adults (or people with medical exemptions) can enter venues like restaurants and bars, as well as non-essential retail.
On Sunday, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said businesses could be fined up to $5000 for not taking “reasonable measures” to stop unvaccinated adults from entering.
However, NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller previously said that as long as all the usual signage is in place, police would not go out of the way to penalise individual staff over potential breaches.
“We will certainly be assisting restaurant owners and shop owners if they are refusing entry to someone,” Mr Fuller told 2GB.
“The role for police going forward in terms of vaccination won’t be stopping people and asking to see their vaccination passport.”
This matches what the state government told Business NSW: The onus will be put on customers to make sure they are following the rules.
By December 1, these restrictions will be eased and it will be up to individual businesses to decide whether they will enforce any vaccine-related rules.