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Contact tracing no longer required under Level 2

An updated public health order from Health Minister Chris Hipkins makes clear that businesses are not required to contact trace under Level 2, unlike in May, Marc Daalder reports

A major public health measure that used to be part of the Level 2 restrictions no longer applies to businesses.

When the country first moved down to Level 2 in May, non-retail businesses were required to make sure customers scanned contact tracing QR codes or signed in on pen-and-paper registers. However, that requirement is no longer present for businesses currently in Level 2.

The initial order enforcing the second Level 2 restrictions was unclear as to whether contact tracing was mandatory for businesses. An updated order from Health Minister Chris Hipkins, which came into force at midnight on Saturday, makes clear that businesses in Level 2 do not have to make sure customers participate in contact tracing, while those in Level 3 do.

All businesses in either alert level must make means for contact tracing - including a government QR code and an alternative such as a pen-and-paper register - available to customers. But customers can only be made to scan QR codes in Level 3 Auckland.

Under Level 3, businesses other than supermarkets, dairies, pharmacies, petrol stations, vets, schools and accommodation services "must have systems and processes in place to ensure that to the greatest extent practicable, each person who enters the workplace scans the QR code for the workplace; or provides details in a contact tracing record that the person in control of the workplace collects".

From Monday, however, no business anywhere in the country will face that legal requirement to scan QR codes or sign registers.

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said this wasn't a weaker Level 2 than last time because QR codes are much more prevalent.

"We've clearly got a much greater number of QR code posters out there and from what I'm seeing of people - and I think the measures that businesses are taking - is that they're making it much more routine for people and easier for people when they enter the business to scan," he said.

"It's a learned behaviour and we're seeing that from the number of scans; people are just taking that on board as something that you do when you go into a premise. I think the obligation on businesses to display the QR code is the fundamental thing here."

Bloomfield said there were more than a million QR poster scans a day over the past week.

Siouxsie Wiles, an expert on infectious diseases at the University of Auckland, said the rules change indicated a transition to counting on individual responsibility in addition to regulation.

"The onus has to be on every one of us. We have to be thinking of this as a collective thing. And part of the deal for us, being at Level 2 and being able to go out, is that we need to keep track of where we've been," she said.

"So it's our responsibility, not the responsibility of the places we've been."

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