5 Jun 2020

Hospitality businesses confused over future of contact tracing

9:51 am on 5 June 2020

As the country turns its eyes to life under level 1, confusion reigns over the future of contact tracing at hospitality businesses.

A customer signing in and sanitising their hands before ordering at Adoro Cafe in Napier.

A customer signing in and sanitising their hands before ordering at Adoro Cafe in Napier. Photo: RNZ/Anusha Bradley

They say the government needs to be more clear about what it expects of them, and if it is going to enforce the use of its QR code app.

With a multiplicity of apps, websites and pen and paper systems around Dunedin hospitality businesses - and some businesses with no systems at all, one resident said she had had enough.

Madeleine, who didn't want her last name used, has started boycotting businesses who aren't offering a QR code for the government's official Covid Tracer App.

She said businesses needed to have effective systems set up before the border reopened, but some local cafes had been "less than complacent".

"This week I've heard endless whinging from businesses wanting to go to level 1 [but] not doing their bit to allow customers to be able to do their bit to contact trace," she said.

Yesterday, complacent businesses got a firm prompt from the Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield, who urged those that weren't routinely contact tracing to "get with the programme", and said the Ministry of Health was considering implementing a requirement for businesses to do so.

"I would expect all businesses to do it. It's useful for their customers. It's helpful for people who have the app and I'd hope as many New Zealanders as possible do have it," he said.

Yet some hospitality businesses said they were getting mixed messages from the government if they should be enforcing contact tracing, or if it was ultimately up to the customer - and they were not sure whether to offer an app or a pen and paper.

Owner of the Apothecary eatery in Howick, Ted Waters, has played it safe and offered both options to customers from the get-go, but been the subject of three WorkSafe complaints about inadequate contact tracing.

He said that was despite some other nearby businesses doing no contact tracing at all.

He would like to see the whole system abandoned at level 1.

"I mean the contact tracing is a bit of a joke. If someone puts down 'Mickey Mouse' how am I to know? We don't take ID. It's all a bit fictitious to me. But obviously we do ask people to either use our QR code or write down their details."

President of Hospitality New Zealand's Wellington branch, Matt McLaughlin, is offering customers a website to log into when they visit his central Wellington bars, Danger Danger or Panhead.

He said he was happy with that system because it saved customers from downloading a new app and went around the problems he had heard other bar owners encountered with the government's app.

But he would still like to see a nationwide approach to contact tracing.

"I think that would probably be pretty wise. If every business just had one contact tracing app, or one piece of technology, I think that would be, by far, the easiest way for us to all move forward."

The Ministry of Health said it was yet to announce how contact tracing requirements would change or operate under alert level 1.

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