Vaccine passes: Police and Health Ministry won’t say if spot checks discussed

The Ministry of Health and police are declining to say whether they have discussed conducting random spot checks at venues to see if people are using valid vaccine passes, amid concerns of vaccine pass fraud.

The ministry deferred a response to the police.

A police spokesperson said it was working with other government agencies to assess “potential compliance breaches and concerns”, but would not respond directly to the question of whether random checks had been a topic of discussion.

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WorkSafe said it was analysing complaints that it had received about businesses’ enforcement of vaccine pass rules to see if there were any trends, such as issues emerging in particular parts of the country or industries.

WorkSafe, which is an agency within the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, received a total of 177 complaints about venues breaching Covid rules between December 3 – when the ‘traffic light’ Covid alert system took effect – and last Thursday.

But a spokesman said it could not easily break down how many of those potential breaches involved allegations of venues failing to check or enforce vaccine passes.

The total would have included other complaints, such as businesses failing to implement rules surrounding face-masks, physical distancing requirements and the scanning of QR codes, he said.

A North Island bar owner has said they had observed businesses not conducting checks, and had turned away 50 people who tried to enter their premises using fake vaccine passes on the first Saturday night that they became mandatory – a scenario they feared was being repeated around the country.

There is little to stop unvaccinated people from using fake passes, unless businesses voluntarily choose to scan and not just sight passes, or to prevent customers from using ‘borrowed’ vaccine passes belonging to other people unless they also conduct separate checks of customers’ photo IDs.

The Ministry of Heath said – prior to the move into the traffic light system – that spot checks of vaccine passes by police were an option.

WorkSafe describes vaccine passes as a “high trust model”.

WorkSafe describes vaccine passes as a “high trust model”.

However, WorkSafe and police’s comments appear suggest their first step may be to act only on complaints of businesses not enforcing the rules.

“Police focus to date has been to help people understand and adjust to the new Covid protection framework,” police’s spokesperson said.

“Any non-compliance issues identified, including vaccine passport misuse, are allocated to the appropriate government agency for their review and action as required.”

WorkSafe’s spokesman acknowledged vaccine passes were “a high trust model”.

“However, based on experience with the alert level framework, businesses can expect strong feedback from their customers and competitors if they do not follow the rules,” he said.

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