Explained: How will vaccine passports work for businesses?

Source: Unsplash/Louis Reed.

The Prime Minister and state premiers are signalling that vaccine passports for entry into the country, travel between states and even entry into pubs, hair salons and cafes could be rolled out as soon as next month.

These so-called vaccine passports or certificates would allow states to open up faster, offer additional freedoms to fully vaccinated people and allow businesses to welcome customers back on site.

But not all states have agreed to adopt vaccination certificates that would sync their QR code check-in apps with health data managed by the federal government.

Here’s what we know so far about how a vaccination passport system would work.

Which states back vaccine passports in businesses? 

The federal and state governments have for some time been looking into linking federally managed health data with state COVID-19 check-in apps.

The idea is that venues requiring patrons to check-in won’t have to ask them to use multiple systems to show their vaccination status. All patrons need to do is scan a QR code using their phone, which would show their vaccination status and check them into the venue at the same time. 

So far, NSW and Victoria are the only states that have come out in support of adopting the system in venues such as sporting facilities, cafes, restaurants, pubs and beauty salons.

The ACT has rejected adopting the check-in app passport system and Queensland and Tasmania are still on the fence about it. This is primarily because these states and territories use a different COVID-19 check-in app that can’t easily pull data from Medicare, The Sydney Morning Herald reports. 

Which states support vaccine passports for domestic travel?

States and territories with no major COVID-19 outbreaks have shown little support for vaccination requirements for businesses, but are generally supportive of vaccination passports for domestic travel.

In fact, WA has already enforced vaccination requirements for some Australian travellers entering the state. For example, arrivals from NSW must have had at least one vaccine dose to enter.

Tasmania and the Northern Territory have backed the use of a passport system for domestic travel. Since last month, state premiers and the federal government have been in discussions in National Cabinet about how the system would work.

Does the federal government back passports?

This week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison changed his advice about vaccination requirements for businesses.

Morrison had said five weeks earlier that the federal government was not in a position to force businesses to impose vaccination requirements on their staff and customers, the ABC reports.

A few weeks later, however, he encouraged businesses to exercise their rights under property laws to deny entry to people who are unvaccinated.

“Any venue, any pub, any cafe, any restaurant, any shop can, has every right under Australia’s property laws to be able to deny entry to people who are unvaccinated,” Morrison told Sky News on Tuesday.

Morrison said that vaccination certificates — a term he prefers over vaccination passports— will certainly be part of Australia’s transition to living with COVID-19.

“Of course, we have them for many other things as well. And, you’re going to need them for international travel as well,” he said.

Will the government adopt passports for international travel?

The federal government is in the final stages of setting up a vaccination passport system for international travel in line with phase three and four of its national COVID-19 plan.

Tourism and trade minister Dan Tehan said on Wednesday that a system to support the reopening of international travel will be finalised within weeks.

“We’re in the process of planning that so that in the coming weeks we will have a system up and ready so when we hit that 70% or 80% vaccination mark Australians will be able to travel overseas again and also Australians will be able to return home in greater numbers,” he said.

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