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Unvaccinated unable to take driving test

GRAPHIC/TIMES-AGE

MARY ARGUE
[email protected]

All learner drivers sitting their practical driving tests now need to be fully vaccinated.

VTNZ and Waka Kotahi confirmed in a joint statement on Friday that vaccine passports for driving tests would be mandatory under the covid-19 traffic-light system, which came into effect on Friday.

The confirmation was welcomed by Masterton’s VTNZ and a Wairarapa driver mentoring programme, but a question mark remained over how many people would be affected.

In the latest Ministry of Health vaccination statistics for Wairarapa, 3374 people aged 12 or older remained unvaccinated.

It was unclear how many of those people were older than 16 and a half, the minimum age to get a learner licence in New Zealand.

VTNZ and Waka Kotahi said driving tests were a “close contact service”, meaning proof of vaccination would be needed, and unless applicants had an exemption, they would need to wear facemasks.

Despite the restrictions, they said that the backlogged system was preparing for a surge in demand.

Waka Kotahi confirmed that unvaccinated applicants already booked for tests could apply for a refund.

Another option was to reschedule until the test could be “conducted safely in line with covid protocols”, they said.

VTNZ country manager Greg O’Connor said they were exploring future options to allow people who were not fully vaccinated to sit their practical tests.

Masterton VTNZ manager Ted Anslow said the store had already fielded calls about vaccine requirements.

“I just told them what I know – that you would need to be vaccinated from Friday,” he said.

Anslow said there would be cancellations for driver testing.

He said the “vast majority” of those sitting practical tests were younger “between 17 and 20-odd”, but they did not know how that would translate to the percentage of unvaccinated people in Wairarapa.

Anslow said the messaging from VTNZ and Waka Kotahi had been clear, but the compressed timeline was a challenge.

“[The government] are rushing this through so Auckland can open for Christmas, but the timeframe has been pretty short.

“We are receiving this information a couple of days before it kicks in. It would be nice to have some more time, but we just have to deal with it as it comes. Naturally, there will be some difficulties.”

Anslow said the effect of covid-19 in its entirety had been stressful.

Wairarapa Road Safety Council manager Bruce Pauling said the mandates were there for a reason, and Wairarapa’s driver mentoring programme would comply with the government health guidelines.

He said organisations supported by the programme had been notified, and he was waiting to see how many people would be affected.

Pauling said he had heard most of the students in the mentoring programme were double vaccinated but said they would not get a clear picture until Friday.

He said despite the challenges, the mandate was about keeping the community safe.

“That includes everyone, our students and our mentors, who are in an older-age cohort. Safety is the priority.”

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