Govt considering making tracer app mandatory in bars

The Government is considering mandatory QR scanning in "high-risk" locations such as bars and restaurants, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.

Cabinet has commissioned advice on the move, after daily scans fell from a high of 2 million every day at the height of the pandemic in New Zealand to a low of just over 400,000.

Over time, requiring people to scan would become part of every day life, much like showing ID in a bar, Ardern said at today's post-Cabinet press briefing.

The level of scanning across New Zealand had been consistently low, which left the country "exposed", she said.

The Prime Minister said that the Government was also considering mandating mask-wearing at Levels 2 and above at certain high-risk locations.

Ardern said the last week has seen Covid cause significant disruption in New Zealand and it was time to review our "toolbox".

Asked why mandated scanning had not already been put in place, she said the hope had been that people would scan.

She said the delay in putting mandated scanning in place was around the difficulty in enforcement.

The Government had remained "open-minded" on mandated scanning and operators would be responsible for ensuring that people scanned QR codes at high-risk locations.

Asked whether it was the individual or an establishment that would be held responsible, Ardern said the Government was receiving advice on this, acknowledging the extra burden on the likes of hospitality operators.

Cabinet met today after the Government decided yesterday to extend alert level 2 for Wellington and pause quarantine-free travel with Australia amid rising case numbers fuelled by the highly infectious Delta variant.

Cabinet is also meeting tomorrow ahead of any further decisions around changes to Wellington alert levels and the travel pause.

Travel bubble

Ardern said that Cabinet was being cautious about re-opening the transtasman bubble and would need to see that Australian states had effective border control measures in place.

Cabinet would discuss the transtasman bubble again tomorrow.

Time would be given for Kiwis stranded in Australia to get a pre-departure test and allow airlines to gear back up for flights before the bubble reopens.

Ardern said the Government had to be agile when deciding to close the transtasman bubble and Covid-19 Response Chris Hipkins said they had erred on the side of caution.

The Prime Minister said that tourism operators affected by the closure of the transtasman bubble would not be able to claim compensation.

Hipkins couldn't answer how long the two miners who returned to New Zealand from the Northern Territory mine at the centre of a Covid exposure event had been in the community before being put into isolation.

Hipkins said the two close contacts of the positive Australian mine case were not isolating in an MIQ facility. He said the communities they were isolating in would not need to be notified unless a risk was identified.

Wellington signs 'encouraging'

Hipkins told media that signs were encouraging when it comes to bringing Wellington out of alert level 2 tomorrow.

However, he would like to see higher testing numbers in the Capital. Just under 100 contacts of the Covid-positive traveller who visited Wellington had not yet been tested.

Ardern said that she had been in the opposite terminal to the Wellington positive case and had been monitoring for symptoms, but had not been advised to be tested.

Hate speech legislation

On hate speech, Ardern said insult was not a high enough bar to be covered by the proposed legislation, noting that intent to incite was key.

Ardern said the hate-speech proposals sought to modernise the language but not to lower the threshold.

She defended saying that political opinion was not covered by the proposed legislation, saying the Government had recommended that it was not included but that the question remained open.

Calls to review alert levels

The Government has been facing mounting pressure to review its alert level system, which is well over a year old and was compiled when much less was known about the virus.

Experts say with the new Delta variant, which is far more transmissable and deadly than the original, new measures should be brought in to contain any future outbreak.

For example, the Sydney outbreak highlighted that aerosol transmission was much more common than initially thought, raising the importance of mask-wearing in crowded areas.

Public health experts including Professor Michael Baker say an alert level system that reflected this would include mandatory QR scanning at high-risk places - like cafes, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, gyms, singing groups, and churches - and wider use of masks in indoor areas.

Specifically, they said there could be two separate "levels" that enforced mask-wearing – one that applied to people taking transport like flights, buses, trains, taxis and ride-shares, as well as to health facilities and rest homes; and another higher level that extended to all indoor settings, save for homes and primary schools.

The former level could be in place when Australia was seeing outbreaks and the bubble was open, while the latter could apply to a higher-risk situation like Wellington's current one.

Hipkins last week said while he was not ruling out any of these measures, but there were compliance issues to work through with compulsory scanning and mask-wearing.

Comments

And what's to stop someone from simply holding their cell phone up to the barcode but not actually scanning the code? I'm sure many Kiwis do this, as they do not like being tracked by ANY app.

Time they made scanning mandatory everywhere at all levels. Masks at level 2 makes sense. Non-vaccinated should have severe restrictions. This weak Government needs to take Covid seriously and stop messing around.

Err no, very soon the country will descend into a dictatorship, you happy with that?.

Err... How will the country descend into dictatorship by making scanning mandatory? Lay out the dominoes for us so we can all understand how they will topple and fall leaving us with just one person running the show.

It's time to get with the program, a temporary imposition. It is not the time to use Covid for ideological, anti Government jibes.

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