A degree of progress is being made on My Vaccine Pass issues as Friday's transition to the traffic light system looms.
The new face-to-face help option seems to be working well for My Vaccine Pass - to a degree - and the Ministry of Health says wait times for its helpline ( 0800 222 478) have been sliced to "generally a couple of minutes, but it could be up to about 20 minutes".
The ministry's narrative was at odds with reality last week as three times it told the Herald that the constantly engaged helpline was coping well.
Unfortunately, that remained the case today, when the Herald tried calling the "upgraded" helpline only to give up after half an hour of hold music.
On a happier note, Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins finally came through on Friday on his promise of face-to-face support, announcing that people would be able to get a Vaccine Pass from one of 400 participating pharmacies. If your local is on the vaccine programme, then it's probably on the My Vaccine Pass system too. Locations are listed here.
I bowled along to our local chemist on Monday with my partner, who is RealMe-registered and meets all the necessary criteria, but has been unable to negotiate My Covid Record website without it generating errors. The 0800 number proved inaccessible, and a helpdesk response by email said it would be up to five days before her case was investigated.
My partner still has no electronic copy, but our pharmacist was able to login to the system and print out a copy of her Vaccine Pass - which she laminated.
I'd been dubious, but the whole process only took about five minutes and was free.
Even if you've been able to acquire your Vaccine Pass online without any hassle, getting a laminated printout at your local pharmacy is a handy backup if your phone goes flat.
My partner had earlier made numerous attempts to get through to the ministry's helpline, including an hour on hold (there is no call-back option) during a rare instance that she was not met with an engaged signal. She gave up at that point - which was nothing on a reader who had spent a collective 10 hours trying to get through.
On Monday, a Ministry of Health spokesman updated: "After upgrades last week the system is now performing well. By the end of the week the waiting time for the call lines that process My Vaccine Pass requests and NHI updates was generally a couple of minutes, but it could be up to about 20 minutes.
"We ask people to continue to be patient and kind to our staff as they assist with queries and help people generate their My Vaccine Pass. There is still time for people to get their pass, and we ask that if you can't get through immediately please call back later. Or they can generate their own My Vaccine Pass in mycovidrecord.health.nz."
The ministry did not respond to a followup query on helpline staffing levels.
The MoH said earlier that launch-day problems with the Covid Record site were related to two issues: a cyber-defence system that mistook the surge in genuine visitors for a DDoS attack by bots and blocked access for some and a glitch with a customer verification service provided by Microsoft via its Azure cloud platform. The MoH says systems supplied by Amazon Web Services, functioned well.
In terms of where a Vaccine Pass will be required from Friday, and whether it'll be a case of casually sighting or scanning, it seems it's up to the business concerned in most cases.
"While it won't be mandatory at this stage, businesses will want to use the NZ Verifier App because this will give them confidence that they are providing not only a safe workplace for their staff, but a safe environment for their customers. We will keep an eye on this policy, and revise it if needed," the MoH spokesperson said.
"It is important to note the various settings under the Covid Protection Framework where a person cannot be asked for proof of vaccination status. This includes supermarkets, pharmacies, health and disability services, education facilities, state sector housing and petrol stations."
Meantime, some organisations have been proactive in stating their stance.
McDonald's says a Vaccine Pass will be compulsory for dining in, while one Lone Star restaurant - which has also welcomed the unvaccinated to apply for work - says proof of a jab will not be required.