6 May 2020

Hospitality outlets planning to use a range of Covid-19 tracing apps

7:57 am on 6 May 2020

Restaurants and bars are gearing up with the tech industry to use a range of Covid-19 contact tracing apps in alert level 2.

Cooks in a restaurant kitchen.

Photo: 123rf

A software leader says signs are the government will be happy without having one contact tracing app to rule them all.

Across the hospitality and retail sectors, businesses are desperate to get details of what the government wants at alert level 2.

Hospitality NZ chief operating officer Julie White has 3000 restaurants on her back, asking her how sit-down dining will work.

"Hospitality NZ is inundated from our members, asking us for greater clarification on level 2," White said.

"What does a bubble look like when you're dining in a restaurant?"

But she said she did not know because the government had not responded to her many questions.

Wellington hospitality software provider Jonny McKenzie has heard from the Ministry of Health (MOH).

He said the MOH had given him confidence to push on and release his app based on a QR code-at-the-door system tomorrow.

There may well still be a place for a single big national app that traced people in public places - streets and libraries for example, McKenzie said.

"We're learning that it's hard to build a one size fits all model and what we're watching is that other countries are adopting more technologies and in our case we think that that's what this country is going to have to do as well - look for multiple solutions..."

But it was not here yet - and neither the hospitality or retail sectors thought the lack of it would hold back alert level 2 business openings.

Retail NZ chief executive Greg Hartford has been assuming that shops would have to trace employees and contractors but not much more than that.

"We're really expecting that there won't be any contact tracing requirements for customers and that's because we've been through the worst of the Covid-19 crisis at level 4 and there were no customer contact tracing requirements in place in supermarkets and mostly in a retail setting you're not having that close contact for more than 15 minutes."

"It is really important that if the government is going to put a contact tracing requirement in place that it's really really clear about what technology it requires to be used and how that works.

Restaurant Association national president Mike Egan was relaxed about the prospect of multiple apps on offer, as long as they all worked and did not inconvenience diners.

Julie White echoed that.

But she was stressed at the prospect of one in 10 of the country's 10,000 venues failing to reopen at all under alert level 2.

She said all up, three out of 10 could go to the wall without government help by year end.

"The quicker and the more detailed confirmation that comes out of government the better it is for the lives and livelihoods of all New Zealanders."

Jonny McKenzie's hopes were more immediate.

"With the looming opening of Wednesday next week we kind of need to get onto it ASAP in order to help the hospitality industry open its doors," he said.

But the government says it's not necessary to have a national tracing app in place before the country moves to level 2 because its manual tracing system is solid.

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