Covid complacency creeps in as check-ins fall 25% at NSW venues

The number of Covid-19 check-ins at venues across New South Wales has declined by more than 25% in the space of three months, new data reveals.

© Provided by The Guardian
Photograph: Jenny Evans/Getty Images

Since the start of the year, hospitality and hairdressing businesses have been required to use the Service NSW app to register people’s details at the time they visit, using a QR code to check in on their phone.

Despite venue check-ins becoming part and parcel of Covid-normal life in Australia, complacency appears to have crept in. Data from Service NSW provided to Guardian Australia shows a decline of more than 16m in the number of check-ins between January and April, despite restrictions being in place in January due to Sydney’s northern beaches outbreak.

© Photograph: Jenny Evans/Getty Images
A Sydney shopper scans a QR code at a supermarket in January. NSW Covid check-ins have declined more than 25% in three months.

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The 66m check-ins in January dropped to 54.4m in February, then down to 50.8m in March and 48.3m in April.

The drop came despite analysis of mobile location data from Roy Morgan suggesting that Sydney, along with other capital cities, reached pandemic highs for movement during the Easter school holidays in April, with Sydney recording 59% of the seven-day traffic it saw in the city pre-pandemic.

A Service NSW spokesperson said people should remain vigilant and ensure they checked in. Businesses were warned they could be inspected and fined or shut down if found to not be in compliance.

“Authorised officers are making inspections of businesses to check compliance and are able to issue on-the-spot fines,” the spokesperson said. “For repeated non-compliance, businesses may be shut down for periods of up to a month.”

An epidemiologist, Prof Mary-Louise McLaws from the University of New South Wales, told Guardian Australia the drop showed the general population did not feel the threat of Covid-19 but people would remember to scan the code when the threat became apparent.

“If you ask them to use the QR code they will, and the venue operators will remind you and point to the code,” she said “Yes, it’s dropped, but that’s a reflection of how safe the Australian people feel, and some have just learned a new behaviour and are continuing it, and it’s embedded and it’s easy for them.

“The others will do the right thing when a threat reappears.”

The problem with that, McLaws said, was the threat of a breach from hotel quarantine was always with us, and with the staff in the system being of a younger demographic, they socialised more and had more contacts.

“Without using [the codes], even in this safe time, it basically means that contact tracers have got a more difficult job to keep us safe,” she said. “So I would recommend using QR codes until our authorities have decided that we’ve reached herd immunity, which will be a long time off.”

The NSW services minister, Victor Dominello, told Nine newspapers in April that the check-in system would remain in place until health experts deemed it no longer necessary.

A total of 4.8 million people have checked in using the Service NSW app at least once, with 236m total check-ins. There are 216,111 businesses in NSW registered to use it.

The data is held by the NSW government for 28 days for the purpose of contact tracing in the event that someone who visited the venue later tests positive for Covid-19. If 28 days pass without it being needed, the data is deleted.

Victoria followed NSW, with businesses required to be using the state’s check-in app or one that uses the government interface by the end of April, and Queensland made its check-in app mandatory from 1 May.

Source: Thanks