8 Sep 2021

Researchers welcome mandatory Covid-19 QR codes after 'complacent' scanning revealed

2:38 pm on 8 September 2021

A group of Otago University researchers is welcoming mandatory QR codes after an audit showed fewer than 10 percent of Dunedin residents were scanning into businesses just before the current lockdown.

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Data from 4200 visits at 64 locations around Dunedin between 18 July and 1 August showed people in Dunedin were only scanning in nine percent of the time. Photo: Ministry of Health

As of midnight last night, it is mandatory for most businesses and event organisers to give customers a way to record their visit.

No one can be forced to scan in, but it is being made increasingly difficult to resist.

The moves follow an audit carried out in July and August.

Final year Otago medical students analysed data from 4200 visits at 64 locations around Dunedin between 18 July and 1 August.

They found people in Dunedin were only scanning in nine percent of the time, and that dropped to two percent for bars and three percent at restaurants.

The audit also noted less than one percent of people entering supermarkets were using paper sign in instead of QR codes.

A similar audit in February found 10 percent were scanning.

The researchers spent 45 minutes at each location during July and August, recording information about rates of scanning, QR code poster displays and how well businesses followed the guidelines for how to display their QR code.

Supermarkets and cafes had the best scanning rates at 10-13 percent.

Otago University's Centre for International Health Co-director Professor Philip Hill said the audit confirmed the suspicion of significant complacency in New Zealand leading up to the Delta outbreak.

"We need to all make QR scanning part of normal life during the pandemic, no matter what the current case numbers in any part of the country are. Along with making sure we get tested as soon as we get any cold or flu-like symptoms, these will give us a great chance of stamping out future outbreaks without requiring prolonged lockdowns," Hill said.

Final year medical student Eric Munro, who was involved in the latest audit, said voluntary scanning clearly did not work for New Zealanders.

"How can we genuinely expect the QR code to provide benefit to our Covid-19 contact tracing efforts if less than 10 percent are using it? We can't."

He believed mandatory QR code scanning would mirror that of mask-wearing.

"New Zealanders responded well to the making of mask wearing mandatory," Munro said.

Beforehand, almost no one was wearing a mask on a plane. Since, everyone wears a mask - there has been no significant backlash or difficulty with implementation. There is no reason to believe that the situation would be different for mandatory QR code scanning."

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