COVID crackdown: Contact tracing trouble as venues lapse
Queensland businesses have been put on notice after authorities discovered some of the crucial contact details which customers are required to leave when checking-in were illegible.
Officials will now launch a compliance blitz ahead of Christmas and over the holiday period with businesses given 72 hours to move away from paper-based check-ins.
As Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk yesterday urged venues to get their "house in order", Queenslanders in greater Sydney were left scrambling to get home before Tuesday if they wanted to avoid mandatory hotel quarantine.
Ms Palaszczuk revealed authorities weren't able to get in touch with everyone who visited The Glen Hotel in Eight Mile Plains, after a woman who's since tested positive for COVID-19 visited it on December 16, because there was illegible handwriting with check-ins.
"That is not on, it is simply not on," she said.
"So we are giving a very clear message to our pubs and clubs and cafes right across Queensland, that you will have 72 hours to get your house in order and that means you must have QR codes or you must have electronic devices in place otherwise you will be going back to the one per 4 square metres and people will not be able to stand up and enjoy their drinks."
The Premier said while the majority of Queenslanders were doing the right thing, it was not acceptable for patrons to come in and not leave their details.
Queensland Hotel Association chief executive Bernie Hogan said inability to contact people on registers was not a reflection of the venue.
"What was said this morning about the illegible contact tracing is not actually an indication of the venue - it's actually an indication of the patron not taking it seriously," he said.
"For us, more than anything this is a wakeup call that this is a partnership between the patron and your local venue because realistically all these venues may have someone there, they've asked people to fill things out, which is in line with what they're allowed to do - no one has broken a law here.
"The issue is that if it's unable to be used then all that great effort has gone to waste."
Health Minister Yvette D'Ath warned authorities would launch a blitz on businesses to ensure they were proactively checking customers were filling out their details upon arrival.
"It is not acceptable that businesses are just hoping that their customers and patrons have checked in," she said.
"It is their responsibility to proactively make sure that before people take their seats at venues or they take orders at counters that they have checked in."
The Minister urged venues to also use floor marking for social distancing and to ensure customers were adhering to it, while saying staff should be greeting customers at the door to encourage trolleys to be wiped down and the use of hand sanitiser.
Queenslanders have also been told to wear masks if they are unable to social distance.
Restaurant & Catering Australia chief executive Wes Lambert said it was important for restaurants to ensure all patrons had checked in as contact tracing was the cornerstone of COVID safety.
He said QR codes would also eliminate the illegible handwriting issues, and would support a move to QR codes being used exclusively in Queensland.
A Chamber of Commerce & Industry Queensland spokesperson said Queensland businesses wanted nothing more than to stay open and recognised the importance of contract tracing.
"We understand recording and storing details can be onerous on business, which is why we have supported and encouraged businesses to use online platforms, such as SafeVisit, to help make the requirement easier on both the premises and the businesses," they said.
"However, while it is essential businesses follow their COVIDsafe plans and practices, which the vast majority are vigil about, it is also a responsibility to patrons to accurately record their information, so if people need to be contacted, they can be."
Some customers and venues have welcomed the Premier's crackdown on accurate contact tracing records, with some punters saying they would support a fine for people who avoid providing their details.
Spoon Cafe Deli in James St has been using a QR code system for contact tracing records since April.
"People have mostly embraced it now, I think it's become normal," supervisor Elliot O'Brien said. "We do also have the paper one, but people rarely use it, in fact in the past two days we haven't had anyone with that."
Jade Duncan, 29, of New Farm said QR codes were an excellent tool to keep the community safe.
"Everyone has to do what they can to keep everyone safe … it's easy to forget where you have been, especially if you're having a few drinks around the silly season, so I think it's important to have that record and compulsory check-in" she said.
Ms Duncan said she had concerns about how details will be obtained for people without a smartphone.
Bald Hills local Glenn Smith, 63, said paper records were unnecessary because "we all have phones" and that he would support penalties for people who do not provide true details.
"If people do that sort of thing I think the full force of the law should come down on them," he said.
Originally published as COVID crackdown: Contact tracing trouble as venues lapse