A government app update designed to verify the vaccination status of New South Wales residents is still weeks away, despite the state reopening to double-jabbed people on Monday.
Late last month, the NSW digital minister, Victor Dominello, confirmed a trial of an update to the Service NSW app, which people use to check into venues, that will also verify a person’s vaccination status.
The trial commenced this week in regional NSW, with internal government participants, and will commence with up to 500 staff and customers at selected clubs, aged-care facilities and taxi companies from Monday 11 October.
Services Australia’s deputy chief executive officer of transformation projects, Charles McHardie, told the Senate Covid committee last month that, after the new update, when a person checks into a venue, the app will display a green tick if that person is fully vaccinated.
“There’s a rendition of the vaccination certificate that will sit in each of the state-based apps that will look exactly the same as ours. But there is also a QR code authentication feature that sits on that, and it is up to the states if they would then like to put some other additional authentication capability on paper based certificates that they may want to offer up as well.”
A spokesperson for Service NSW said the pilot would run for two weeks to test connectivity and security between the Service NSW app and the Australian Immunisation Register.
People will have the option to turn on and off showing vaccination status via a privacy toggle.
It is understood Service NSW was only able to access the register from the end of last month, however, a Services Australia spokesperson said there was no delay, with the state and federal government agencies working together on the app since mid-August.
“Services Australia delivered the necessary development work to commence systems integration testing in late September. There was no delay,” the spokesperson said.
“We have worked with Service NSW to ensure everything was in place for when the check-in app pilots commenced on 6 October.”
McHardie said late last month that the system changes on Services Australia’s end had been made, and integration testing was underway, with enhancements, including to show people who had exemptions from vaccination, being worked on.
“We are aiming to have that capability ready to go in a couple of weeks but everything else is good to go,” he said.
The Service NSW spokesperson said the department would work to align the app rollout with the state government’s reopening plans.
“The Service NSW app will be easiest and simplest way for customers to prove their vaccination status if required when checking in to a business venue.”
Vaccination status within the app will be opt-in, and people will be able to use their Express Plus Medicare app or the digital wallet version of the federal vaccine certificate to prove vaccination status, the spokesperson said.
Guardian Australia has previously reported a flaw with the app made it possible to falsify a vaccination certificate in minutes. However, this is an on-device flaw, meaning the record held by the federal government has not been altered, so within the Service NSW app the status would appear as it does in the federal government record.
McHardie did not say whether this flaw had been fixed, but Services Australia chief executive Rebecca Skinner said if a venue was concerned there had been a forgery, they could call to check.
“If a facility that needed high assurance that someone was vaccinated had any reason to be concerned about that, we would suggest that they call us and we can support them to attest to someone’s vaccination status if that person consents to us providing it,” he said.
Victoria could be next in line, with the assistant treasurer, Danny Pearson, telling reporters on Saturday the government would have more to say on changes to the Service Vic app “shortly”.
People who do not own a smartphone, or do not wish to use the apps, can get a paper certificate from the AIR to present instead. Department officials told the Senate Covid committee paper certificates could take up to 14 days to arrive. In September alone, the department sent out 167,000 paper certificates.
Consent to supply the vaccine certificates to state-based apps will last 12 months, however, how long Australians will continue to need to show vaccination status will depend on the public health orders in each state.
NSW will no longer require proof of vaccination from 1 December under the public health orders.