23 Oct 2020

Covid-19 community case: Keep scanning and be 'extra careful' bar owners tell customers

11:35 am on 23 October 2020

Bars are urging people to be more vigilant about the risk of Covid-19 over the Labour Day weekend and stress the need to scan in using the Covid tracer app or to sign in manually.

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The co-owner of a Christchurch bar is asking people not to get complacent about using the contract tracer app. Photo: RNZ / Nathan McKinnon

Hundreds of Aucklanders queued for hours to get tested yesterday after a person, who was unknowingly carrying the virus, visited a busy pub in Greenhithe last Friday.

There is concern that people are failing to keep up Covid precautions such as using the contact tracing app.

Pubs in the city centre are still busy, but people at the Sweat Shop Brew Kitchen do admit to some worries. Samuel Goa was meeting his friend and co-workers at the bar.

"It's quite concerning because you know it's a community case, which means how did they pick it up and whom else has been infected?" he said.

Despite the fear, there's little appetite to change Labour weekend plans. Andrew Sok said New Zealand is doing well comparing with other countries and he would follow official health rules.

"It wouldn't necessarily affect it. I would be a little bit more cautious I would say, but I would probably still go out," he said.

Most people RNZ spoke to claimed they have been using the Covid contact tracing app diligently but the truth is scan counts are plummeting.

Official statistics show 2.5 million used the app on 5 September. On Tuesday this week, that figure had fallen to less than 370,000.

Grady Elliot, who is the operations manager for several bars in Auckland including Family bar, Saloon Bar and Bamboo Tiger, said they will be asking all patrons to either scan or sign in this weekend.

"One of our nightclubs, we could have like 500 people coming through tonight at various points of the night so we don't want to end up with 500 people running around and one or two suddenly get a dose of the Covid and it'll spread like wildfire."

Elliot said it would make life easier for pub and bar owners if the government introduced a "no scan no entry" policy, so if people did not use the Covid app or sign in they could be denied entry to the premises and he said that could happen in the future.

It is difficult for bars and nightclubs to act to prevent the virus without being in level 2 when they are required to keep everyone seated and implement social distancing, he said.

"Cause when you've got a dance floor and you've got a DJ playing everybody wants to get up and mingle and just dance on the floor after being in level 2 for so long."

Elliot said if there are more cases of Covid in the community the government may have to look at further rules.

"Definitely numbers, it could be that there's this maximum of 100 people and space people out so they're not all cramped in on a dance floor and we may have a situation where we have 100 people in the nightclub and on a one in and one out basis."

Elliot said currently his nightclub has queues down the road with people wanting to come in on Friday or Saturday nights.

With only nine weeks until Christmas the last thing people need is a level 2 or level 3 rules having to be implemented in the next few weeks and the other worry is Aucklanders travelling out of town and potentially taking the virus elsewhere, he said.

Despite that Elliot said he is expecting business as usual this weekend.

A supervisor at Sweat Shop, William Parry, said with a busy Labour weekend coming up, staff members will now make sure people sign in.

"If there are any random community outbreaks then contact tracing will be significantly easier, and the less likely it is we go back into lock down and the better off everyone is," he said.

Mezze Bar manager Aras Ilkmen said it is disappointing to hear of new community cases.

His bar is also requiring customers to sign in and making sure they are seated and served by the same waiter or waitress. They have also separated the tables more.

"I just wish everybody would be basically extra careful and you know, stop spreading the virus around," he said.

Down in Christchurch, the co-owner of the bar Moon Under Water, Matt Kamstra, said people in his city will not be put off by the new cases, but he said some people have been getting complacent and not use the contact tracing app as often.

"Less and less as weeks go past. We tried our hardest to do it, even later going into level 2 which was stressful, but specially with a lot of other places not doing what they are supposed to," he said.

However, on the streets of Christchurch, people were indicating they will likely now be more vigilant, as one man said.

"I'm concerned enough to get the smart phone out and and scan whenever I go out."

The Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, said people need to get back into the habit of using the Covid tracer app whenever they venture out.

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