Enforcing QR code scanning impossible for churches and businesses

QR code scanning

Parish churches and church event organisers are ‘off the hook’ after the Government, Tuesday, backed down on their forcing people to sign in to church events.

Churches no longer have to police and enforce the ‘sign-in’ law.

If someone refuses to scan in, there is no expectation or requirement for the business or location to force a customer or visitor to do so or provide their details for contact tracing purposes, a spokesperson for the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet told RNZ.

“Businesses and locations are also not required or expected to turn people away who may refuse to make a record of their visit.”

If people refuse to scan in, there won’t be any punishment meted out to the church or church event manager.

“The person in charge … must legally make sure they have safe and secure systems and processes in place so that everyone working on or visiting their premises can scan in or provide their details in an electronic or paper-based manual process, no matter how long they are there for.

“This includes workers, contractors, customers, and volunteers.

On Sunday 23 August the Government announced that Churches were among the places new Covid sign-in regulations would apply to.

Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins said there will be a fine for businesses and other organisations – like churches – for failing to keep contact tracing records.

However, despite the late August announcement, on Tuesday 7 September the government conceded nobody can actually force another to sign in.

The regulation now says businesses and organisations such as churches that are open must have more than one system and process in place to ensure, especially for people who are not able to scan QR codes, and as far as is reasonably practicable, that everyone aged 12 years or older who enters their church or church associated premise scans in.

Systems that churches can use for keeping a record of staff and visitors can include:

  • asking people to scan in using the NZ COVID Tracer app
  • recording staff and visitor details manually
  • providing paper forms for a member of staff or visitor to fill in with their details and place in a collection box
  • using existing record-keeping systems, such as swipe-card access or appointment bookings.

Even before the rule change that came into effect at midnight on Tuesday this week, people were already flouting contact tracing systems by signing with fake names and numbers.

The new rules won’t be able to stop such practices.

RNZ says in closed forums it has gained access to, people have discussed how to avoid the QR scanning rules.

Some say they have been using fake names and phone numbers.

They have vowed to continue to make up information if scanning is made mandatory.

“If individuals choose to provide false contact information, they are directly jeopardising the ability for contact tracing to occur quickly and accurately. This could put their health and the health of others at risk,” the government spokesperson says.

“We ask that everyone do their bit …

“Contact tracing is one of the strongest tools we have to stop the spread of Covid-19, minimise lockdowns and keep friends and whānau safe.”

Although Police are able to monitor groups on social media, like the ones RNZ has gained access to, they remained closed-lipped about monitoring Covid-19 issues.

A police spokesperson did say providing false information to a medical officer of health could be an offence that may lead to a prosecution. Writing false details in a contact tracing book does not reach that level, the spokesperson added.

Ministry of Health officials have other means to try and track contacts if false information is registered, but it is much harder and takes far longer.


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