Thursday, 20 Jan 2022

Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Vaccine certificates welcomed by festival organisers

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A major festival and concert promoter says the industry is “relieved” to hear vaccine certificates are on their way and will help events over summer to go ahead.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said yesterday they would be mandatory for high-risk settings including large gatherings, events and festivals, but could also be needed to go to hospitality venues like bars and restaurants.

“If you are booked for a summer festival … this a warning or a heads-up, go and get vaccinated,” Ardern said.

Brent Eccles, promoter and president of New Zealand Promoters’ Association, said it was the news the industry had been waiting for.

“I think a lot of organisers and artists will be relieved to know there will be a pay day and summer could be as normal.”

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The Government was also looking to create a legal framework for organisers of smaller events where it was not mandatory to use the system if they wanted.

Ardern said it would not cover essential services like supermarkets, education facilities, and medical services.

The certificates would be processed digitally and could be accessed via an app, or printed out. The Government hoped to have it launched by November.

Organisers on the other side would have corresponding scanners to assess the certificate. Ardern said there would be safeguards to ensure they were legitimate and linked to the person.

Eccles said promoters were used to having to scan all sorts of accreditation so this would likely not be an issue.

“It’s a small price to pay for having a multi-million dollar summer festival industry.”

Both Act and National welcomed the development but said it had come far too late.

National’s Covid-19 spokesman Chris Bishop said the system should have been rolled out much earlier.

Similar schemes were available overseas last year.

At the moment the only way people could was through a letter from the Ministry of Health, and this could take up to 20 days, Bishop said.

Act Party leader David Seymour said the programme should have been available through the vaccine rollout as now there could be verification issues.

Ardern said it was also hoped “no jab, no festival” might act as incentive to boost youth vaccination rates.

Currently those aged 12 to 30 are vaccinated at much lower rates than older groups, which is largely due to the group being the last to become eligible, at the end of August.

Herald analysis has found the gap could be difficult to plug, with few bookings ahead to increase the overall rates.

The rates were even lower among Māori youth, who were further disadvantaged by the rollout given the age distribution of Māori is much younger.

John Tamihere, chief executive of Te Whānau o Waipareira which has been running vaccination clinics in Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland, said this delay in getting the rollout to the majority Māori population had allowed misinformation to creep through in some communities.

They were caught in the “perfect storm”, with other ethnic groups implicitly prioritised through older age distribution now at higher vaccination rates and with “less appetite for lockdowns”.

Tamihere said vaccine certificates could act as an incentive, but would likely be more effective to those with higher disposable incomes.

“That might work for around 15 per cent of population. Not all Māori can afford to go to Rhythm and Vines.”

Tamihere said organisations like his that knew their communities were calling for more resources so they could target areas with low vaccination rates. They were also calling on the Government to share data about where the lowest rates were.

Epidemiologist Dr Michael Baker said vaccine certificates were important in the future for controlling potential outbreaks, and could act as an incentive for some people.

More immediately though, Baker said the Government should be looking at mandating vaccinations for more workers, including essential workers travelling across the Auckland border or managing this border, notably police.

This could also include public-facing workers in Auckland, those who work in police and other security-based occupations, and health and aged-care workers.

On Monday, 24 new cases were announced, including 18 in Auckland and six in Waikato.

Seven cases were unlinked and eight of the previous day’s cases were unlinked. All Waikato cases were linked.

It was estimated there would be an additional 48 cases in the coming days because of the number of contacts to already-confirmed cases.

Baker said the fact there was not exponential growth showed the virus was still relatively contained, and on a “positive side” vaccination rates were rising.

However, the modelling and comparing the situation to Melbourne was “not optimistic” for how easily the outbreak could get out of control.

“It is a crucial time to be pushing vaccinations,” Baker said.

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