As you will be aware, the Government will introduce the COVID-19 Protection Framework (the traffic light system) on Friday 3 December.
Along with many other organisations, the WSP committee has given careful consideration to how we will work when New Zealand moves this next stage in the COVID-19 response plan. The decision was made to move the Society to implementing compulsory vaccination certificates for all people coming onto the studio premises, including students, visitors, tutors, volunteers and staff.
The discussion and decision was guided by a number of factors including:
- Member consultation: A survey that was circulated last Friday and feedback has been thoughtfully considered. There was strong support for requiring vaccination certificates for studio attendance (see chart below);
- Financial constraints: The reality of keeping the Society running is that it must be financially sustainable. We have high fixed running costs and lockdowns have hugely impacted us. Even when running periodically at Level 2 between lockdowns class sizes, Open Studio and glazing visits have been limited by distancing requirements. Play With Clay community sessions are on hold and Term 4 classes cancelled. It is not financially sustainable to continue on this path. Having to close at both Red and Orange would be impossible to sustain for long. The only way to continue to operate and keep our doors open is to use vaccination certificates.
- Provide an environment that minimises health and safety risks as far as is reasonable practicable. COVID-19 presents a very real risk to the health of our community which includes people who are particularly vulnerable. The Delta variant has demonstrated that it is significantly more infectious, has a higher rate of transmission and, if contracted, is more likely to result in severe illness. In a studio setting, there are additional challenges such as the inability to add increased ventilation due to the danger posed by inhaling clay particles, the extended periods of working in close proximity to others, and the close contact required between tutors and students.
This means that from 3 December 2021 we will require all visitors, aged 12 and over, entering the studio to provide a vaccination certificate that can be scanned.
We are asking that children don't attend the studio until we have had some time to consider how to safely accommodate them.
For those who are not vaccinated (or have not been provided with an official medical exemption) we are working on ways to facilitate you. We are currently planning contactless firing options. Please allow us a little time to develop our procedures; we will communicate more in the coming weeks.
We understand this is a painful and emotive topic and we respect everyone's right to personal choice and privacy. We do ask that if you hold differing views or feel excluded, that you are kind to our volunteers, tutors and staff when interacting with them as they are not responsible for the situation we have found ourselves in.
Thank you for your patience and consideration as we navigate the changes and implement new procedures in the weeks to come.
The Waikato Society of Potters