Ministry of Health confirms vaccine pass verifier app not compulsory

Source: 1News

The use of an app that verifies the authenticity of Covid-19 vaccination passes won’t be mandatory for businesses, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield has confirmed.

It comes after a discrepancy on Tuesday between what the Government was saying and the Ministry of Health.

While the Prime Minister and Covid-19 Response Minister both said the app wasn’t mandatory, the ministry’s website stated on Tuesday: “Visually checking passes isn't enough to allow entry. Scanning someone’s pass proves that it is authentic, valid, and has not expired.”

On Wednesday, the website was updated to say: “Scanning someone’s pass proves that it is authentic, valid, and has not expired.”

The Ministry of Health website on Tuesday (left). The website as it appears on Wednesday (right).

Bloomfield confirmed the website had been updated after he’d discussed it with his team.

“There's nothing in the Order [the legal backing for the country’s pandemic response] that requires businesses to use the verifier app,” he said.

“The advantage of the verifier app is that it provides a high level of assurance to that business that they are keeping their customers and staff safe… but it’s not compulsory to use.

“It's there as a tool for them, they will be able, if they choose to, visually check people's certificates — either hard copy or on their phones.”

Bloomfield said he didn’t provide the Government specific health advice about the use of the verifier app.

However, he encouraged businesses to use the app so people and staff could feel assured.

The Government released the NZ Pass Verifier app on Tuesday. Bloomfield said he hadn’t heard of any reports of issues with downloading it, and some people had already started using it.

Vaccine pass (file photo).

Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday if businesses had concerns with someone’s vaccine pass, they could ask for an ID to make sure the pass they were carrying was theirs.

But, digital contact tracing expert and Koi Tū: The Centre for Informed Futures researcher Dr Andrew Chen told 1News on Tuesday that, without the use of the verifier app, plus an ID check, the system is vulnerable to fraud.

Chen said missing either of the two steps, “runs the risk that the person that has turned up with the piece of paper is not actually vaccinated”.

That’s because the pass doesn’t include a mark to show it is authentic just by looking at it — hence the need for a verifier app to scan the QR code on a pass. It also doesn’t include a photo of the person who owns it, only their name.

The Government said it would be watching out for cases of fraud and didn’t rule out changes to the policy in the future.

The domestic vaccine pass proves that the holder is either fully vaccinated or has a medical exemption.

Auckland hairdressers and barbers are set to open on Thursday to people who are fully vaccinated, with the Government using the sector as a trial for vaccine passes ahead of the nation’s move to the traffic light system from December 3.