Victoria, Tasmania and NT working on vaccine passports, Daniel Andrews reveals

Victorian premier says states looking into what ‘being vaccinated means for your freedom’ under national cabinet mandate

National cabinet has commissioned state governments to develop a vaccine passport, the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, said.

It comes as Western Australia announced it will only allow travellers from New South Wales to enter the state if they have proof they have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.

Andrews said Victoria had been asked to do the work off the back of the national cabinet exit strategy roadmap, a process he says Victoria also “had quite a bit to do with writing and drafting”.

“We’ve been commissioned to do some further work together with Tasmania and the Northern Territory around vaccine passports and what being vaccinated means for your freedom and what not being vaccinated might mean from a rules point of view,” he told reporters in Melbourne ahead of the national cabinet meeting on Friday.

National cabinet has already flagged the use of vaccine passports – or “domestic vaccine certification” – as a way to regulate domestic travel. Polling shows the majority of Australians support the idea.

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The prime minister, Scott Morrison, has been pushing the idea for several months. He said last week that as the rate of vaccination increases, there are “exemptions that those who are vaccinated should reasonably expect”.

The federal cabinet has reportedly backed a proposal for vaccine certificates for quarantine-free international travel.

The plan would use the vaccine certificates issued through MyGov, which have been online since July.

The NSW Labor leader, Chris Minns, has also pushed for a national vaccine passport program, saying it is “the only way forward” and would give people hope for some return to normality.

“It’s really crucial that we show some common sense between now and when we open up again, and in particular, in relation to the idea of vaccines, and the potential for a vaccine passport,” he told reporters this week.

“We need to have some kind of framework for the future, so happy to throw our support behind common-sense, sensible solutions in relation to vaccines, and a return to normality in Australia’s largest state.”

But the Australian Privacy Foundation has raised concerns about the possible introduction of digital vaccine passports, saying the Australian Immunisation Register, which is the source of the information that is then uploaded to personal health records accessible via MyGov, is unreliable.

It has also warned of the risk of fake vaccine passports, and said people who are not digitally literate or do not have access to a smartphone – which includes a significant proportion of people in vulnerable groups – will find a digital vaccine passport to be a “direct impediment to their daily lives”.

The new WA border arrangement, introduced on Friday, applies to states deemed as a high or extreme risk. High risk is classed as a state having more than 50 cases a day – so currently NSW – and extreme risk is more than 500 cases a day.

Travellers from a high-risk zone will require proof of a negative Covid-19 PCR test taken in the 72 hours prior to departure, proof of at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose where eligible, and a mandatory requirement to use the state check-in app.

Andrews said that when Australia reaches the target of an 80% vaccination rate, “then the rules change, the game changes”.

“It’s a very different set of circumstances, it’s a different challenge. But we won’t stop at 80. We want to go as high as we possibly can because to be unvaccinated once we open up will be a really dangerous place to be.

Look at Florida. Look at Texas. Look at so many parts of the world where there is a second pandemic, a third, fourth, fifth wave among the unvaccinated and they are getting terribly, terribly ill.”

Andrews made the comments after announcing a plan to deliver 1m doses of Covid vaccines through Victoria’s state-run hubs by the end of September, which would take the state to 60% first-dose coverage.

From Monday, people aged 18 to 39 will be able to get the AstraZeneca vaccine at any of the more than 50 state-run hubs in Victoria. More than 10,000 people in that age group have already received their first dose at the nine state clinics that were open to younger people this week.

“It’s really tough to be talking to people about how they must get vaccinated and all the consequences of not getting vaccinated when there isn’t enough supply,” Andrews said. “That is going to shift and then supply will no longer be a barrier. In other words, everyone will have been able to participate in that commonwealth vaccine program.”

Contributor

Calla Wahlquist

The GuardianTramp

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