Vaccine passes still in use by some in Dunedin

Some Dunedin organisations and businesses will retain vaccine pass and mandate requirements to keep customers and staff feeling safe in the meantime.

Others, such as the University of Otago, are reviewing their policies, with a view to removing mandates.

Requirements to show vaccine passes, and most vaccine mandates, were dropped by the Government on Monday night, but attending some restaurants, bars, and other close-proximity venues without showing proof of vaccination will still be not allowed in Dunedin, although others are relieved they no longer have to bother with checks.

The University of Otago, one Dunedin's largest employers,  is reviewing its vaccine mandate policy, seeking feedback from staff and students on a proposal to align with Government policy and remove the mandate later this month.

In the short-term the current vaccine mandate policy remains.

University of Otago vice chancellor David Murdoch said a review could result in the removal of the university-wide mandate, but keep the mandates required by Government for health and care workers, prison and border workers.

The Government was reviewing the definition of health and care workers, but at this stage, this would be no change for those working in the university's health education buildings, and campuses such as Christchurch and Wellington.

Information specific to these areas will be shared when a decision was made. 

A survey being sent out today asked staff to indicate their level of comfort with the proposal, while also gathering information about how many staff, or members of their household, were at high risk of severe illness from Covid-19.

Ideas for what actions the University were or could be taking to protect groups in this high risk category, or to generally reduce risk of infection, were also sought.

The university was also seeking feedback from its students through the various students associations.

It was expected the university would announce a decision next week, Dr Murdoch said.

Any change to the mandates would not take effect until Tuesday, April 26, after mid-semester break ends.

Bars and other close-contact businesses were approaching the vaccine pass matter differently to one another.

The majority of central city bar Woof!’s patrons to whom co-director Dudley Benson had spoken wanted vaccine passes to stay in place, so the bar would still require people to show them before being allowed in, he said.

"While Covid numbers are high, we feel it’s responsible to protect the health of our staff and patrons with vaccine passes."

In addition to continuing to show vaccine passes, patrons would wear masks when not seated, he said.

At Northeast Valley cafe Adjo, co-owner Jonas Hansen was relieved the vaccine pass mandate had lapsed.

"When vaccine passes became a thing, we lost some regular customers.

"It was a time-consuming process," he said.

Mr Hansen said regular customers and new ones were coming back now.

At Silk Hair&Beauty in central Dunedin, hair stylist Gemma McDonnell said the salon’s regular clients did not need to show vaccine passes every time they visited, but new customers did.

"We’ve pretty much toed the line when it comes to keeping our clients safe," Ms McDonnell said.

But at Craft Bar and Kitchen in central Dunedin, owner John MacDonald was happy to no longer have to worry about vaccine passes.

People would come and go whether vaccinated or not, he said.

"It was no hassle before.

"People were safe then, and they’ll be safe now."