17 Feb 2021

Some Aucklanders support mandatory Covid app scanning

9:30 am on 17 February 2021

An epidemiologist is calling for Covid Tracer app scanning to be made compulsory in high-risk situations only.

A person using the Covid Tracer app

The Covid Tracer app now has 2.62 million registered users, and 1.14 million have enabled Bluetooth. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

The government wants to keep the scanning numbers up and says making it compulsory might be an option.

Aucklanders say they have been using the app religiously and support making scanning compulsory.

Shopping at the New World supermarket in Remuera, Fiona Campbell said it was important to keep everyone safe.

"It is a good idea because too many people can't be bothered and feel that the rules don't apply to them and the fact is that we are keeping our whole community safe," she said.

At Pak'nSave Royal Oak, Ben Green said he believed the information collected would be used in the right way and also supported the idea.

"I suppose there will be occasional times where it might cause a really large queue in a certain environment so I think from that perspective, I understand it might be a little bit impractical. However, on the whole, I don't really see why we shouldn't make it compulsory wherever it's practical."

Another shopper, Edward Wong, also backed the idea but had reservations.

"How [are] you going to monitor or police that? Who's going to make sure everyone scans? That's not a bad idea, but how it's going to be monitored. It's going to be difficult."

Ajay Vasisht was worried about getting everyone on board.

"I think making it compulsory is not a bad idea, but in the end, you've got to really enrol the people in your thinking and actually make them do it, so the reality of making it compulsory and them doing it, there might be a little bit of a gap."

Otago University public health professor and epidemiologist Michael Baker said voluntary scanning was not producing the outcome wanted by officials.

Instead of asking the entire population to scan all the time, he thought it was better to make scanning mandatory for specific situations like bars, clubs, restaurants, gyms, churches and public transport.

"That would be these high-risk indoor environments where if there is transmission, the virus transmits very efficiently, and you can get these so-called super spreading events occurring," he said, adding that more ways of contact tracing should be provided for people without smartphones.

However, Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois said hospitality businesses were already facing a lot of burdens, particularly with the alert level change.

She said the government should offer some help if scanning was to be made mandatory.

"Businesses currently do have a lot on their plate, so that would be my only concern is making sure that we are providing support for businesses who may be the ones having to police this."

The Covid Tracer app now has 2.62 million registered users, and 1.14 million have enabled Bluetooth.

Poster scans have reached more than 180 million and users have created more than 7.4 million manual diary entries, according to the Ministry of Health.

This is an official government Covid-19 announcement:

Auckland is now at alert level 3, the rest of the country is now at alert level 2. Cases of Covid-19 have been identified in the Auckland community. Restrictions will remain until Wednesday at midnight. A further announcement on next steps will be made at 4.30pm this afternoon. Travelling in or out of Auckland is restricted. Stay home, stop the spread. For more information on the alert levels go to covid19.govt.nz

RNZ is the statutory Lifeline Utility responsible for radio broadcasting under the Emergency Management Act 2002 and it has a memorandum of understanding with Government which has been activated to help deal with potential health issues related to the pandemic. RNZ's Lifeline Utility obligations do not affect our editorial independence as a public media organisation or the rigour of our news gathering and reporting operations.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs