16 Feb 2021

Government considering making Covid-19 tracer app mandatory

3:53 pm on 16 February 2021

The government is actively considering mandating the use of the Covid-19 tracer app, in a bid to boost the number of people scanning.

A woman using the Covid Tracer app at a QR code in the window of a business during level 2 in Wellington on15 February 2021

A woman using the Covid Tracer app at a QR code in the window of a business during level 2 in Wellington on 15 February. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

There are more than 2 million people registered for the app, but in January the average number of scans per day fell to 465,000.

At this afternoon's Covid-19 update, Minister for the Covid-19 Response Chris Hipkins says use of the app increases significantly when there is an outbreak.

"We don't necessarily prepare well, so when we're in a position where people are feeling comfortable they are not always good at taking those precautionary measures, but when we ask New Zealanders to ramp up because we're responding to something, Kiwis are pretty responsive," Hipkins says.

Officials last year looked at whether people should be required to scan in with the app at big events and in places like bars and restaurants, where physical distancing is difficult.

One of the reasons the government has been hesitant to make using the app compulsory is the potential compliance cost, particularly for small businesses, Hipkins says.

"We will certainly be looking at how we can encourage greater uptake and I'm not ruling anything out at this point.

When asked by reporters why the onus would be placed on a business to ensure patrons sign in, instead of the patrons themselves, Hipkins said that was something that was being "worked through".

Officials are looking at what tools the government could give to businesses to increase uptake of the app and what other countries are doing to encourage people to use tracing apps, Hipkins says.

"Experiences from around the world where they might have roaming groups of people walking around to encourage scanning uptake, that eases some of the pressure on businesses to have to do that for themselves."

He points out that bigger shops, like supermarkets, are "well placed" to have a staff member at the front entrance encouraging people to sign in.

"I want to thank those supermarkets who are doing that. For smaller retailers where they may only have one or two people working at any given point in time that can be quite a big challenge for them."

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