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NSW eyes big change to business virus rules

The NSW Government is considering making the Service NSW smartphone application mandatory for businesses that need to collect visitor data to allow for COVID-19 contact tracing. At the moment, many cafes and restaurants are using QR codes to record customer information. These are little black and white squares, reminiscent of barcodes, that can be scanned…

The NSW Government is considering making the Service NSW smartphone application mandatory for businesses that need to collect visitor data to allow for COVID-19 contact tracing.

At the moment, many cafes and restaurants are using QR codes to record customer information. These are little black and white squares, reminiscent of barcodes, that can be scanned with a smartphone camera. Scanning the code takes the user to a website where contact details are recorded, information that the business stores and shares with health authorities in case of an outbreak.

These systems are created and managed by private companies who charge hospitality venues for the service.

There is also the Government’s own version, the Service NSW smartphone application, which has the benefit of automatically sharing the user data with authorities rather than the business having to store the information.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Thursday her government was looking into whether the government app should be made compulsory – a move that would require businesses to scrap their existing systems and force customers to download the app to be able to check into a coffee shop or pub.

“We‘re looking at that because all those organisations that are using the Service NSW QR code system are successfully able to provide (NSW) Health with all the contacts that have come into their place of hospitality or place of activity. And that’s worked really well,” the Premier told reporters.

“We appreciate there are also QR codes that exist which businesses have established themselves. But our ability to manage cases improves if it’s done through Service NSW.”

Within the QR code industry, there are concerns the Service NSW app wouldn’t be able to handle the demand. There are also concerns the requirement to use it would be onerous to businesses and customers.

“I think enforcing a single technology system on businesses in a time where many are already struggling may not be a good thing. I believe contact tracing and virus prevention tools are critically important but so is flexibility for struggling small businesses,” said Tim Williams, director of CovidPass, one of several private businesses offering QR code services.

“If the Government is concerned that private QR code companies are not assisting with contact tracing, then perhaps they can reach out and create a system for those companies to provide the information which will assist them.”

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Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus.