Mandatory record keeping is being brought in for busy places and large gatherings at all alert levels, the Government has announced.
It will be up to the business owner or host to make sure people can sign in or scan a QR code or have their presence otherwise recorded.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins broke the news at this afternoon’s press conference, saying it would help make contact tracing much faster.
The order would apply at busy places like cafes, restaurants, bars, casinos and concerts, aged-care and healthcare facilities, barbers, exercise facilities, nightclubs, libraries, courts, local and central government agencies, and social services providers with customer service counters.
The Government had considered privacy and other considerations, Hipkins said. He clarified the mandatory part was to keep a record, and one way to do that was to use the Covid Tracer app.
Places like gyms and some workplaces where people already sign in can continue keeping records that way.
Hipkins said businesses and hospitality were largely supportive.
“We want to give businesses a bit of time to adjust … we do acknowledge it is an extra imposition on business, but a lot less than higher alert levels.”
Penalties for non-compliance were being reviewed, Hipkins said, but any change would need to be done through legislation.
It was intended to make the announcement last Wednesday, however there was no point as everyone was in lockdown.
In alert Level 2 it is already mandatory to keep records at social gatherings including when visiting a marae, at weddings, funerals, tangihanga and faith-based services.
That requirement will now apply for all businesses and events at any alert level when they can open.
It will not kick in until seven days after each move down alert levels, which will give businesses time to make the necessary changes.
“We know from our own and overseas examples that an outbreak of Covid-19 can be extremely difficult to trace and contain without people keeping a good record of where they have been and who they have come into contact with,” Hipkins said.
“We want to ensure businesses and those who may be organising a gathering or event have time to get this sorted,” Hipkins said in the press statement.
“I understand this adds an extra responsibility for businesses and hosts, but it is necessary to help New Zealand maintain its Covid-19 elimination strategy and help us return to the freedoms we have enjoyed for the past year which so many other countries have not.”
As with mandatory mask-wearing, record keeping will only apply to people over age 12.
The Act Party says it’s pleased scanning will be mandatory, but the onus should be on individuals, not businesses to enforce it.
Leader David Seymour raised concerns about businesses having to employ more staff to make sure people were scanning, or staff having to deal with an aggressive customer refusing to sign in.
“The Government should look at ways to incentivise people using the app, not recruit cafe workers, who are already in short supply, as unwilling law enforcement.”
Current penalties for non-compliance are up to $1000 and Hipkins has signalled this could be reviewed but would require a law change.
The new rules will not come into force for a week, a spokesman for Hipkins told the Herald.
Asked how businesses could enforce people signing in and whether they or the individual would be penalised if they refused to do so, he said that information was still to come.
There are now 72 cases of Covid-19 in the community, after 21 new cases were announced today. There are now more than 280 locations of interest – mostly in Auckland.
Because the vast majority of cases are in Auckland, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said it is “very likely” restrictions will extend beyond the initial seven days announced last week.
She expected cases to continue rising early next week before they started to drop.
Cabinet will decide whether to continue the current restriction level when it meets tomorrow.
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