Every contact person over 12 years old in Aotearoa will be require to keep track of whereabouts starting at 11:59pm Tuesday September 7. This can done by scanning QR codes or signing paper registrations that many businesses and event organizers will need to provide.
Mandatory record-keeping is an attempt to strengthen contact traceability in response to the low number of people scanning or signing in prior to the current Delta outbreak.
New rules will result in significantly more data being collect. Although the government assured the public that data collected to trace contact details would be use only for this purpose, there are concerns that other agencies may request such data for law enforcement purposes.
Since January, when the Singaporean police obtained contact tracing data to conduct criminal investigations, I have been calling on strong privacy protections.
We wrote an open letter to Chris Hipkins, COVID-19 response minister, in which more than 100 civil society organisations and academics signed. We argued that the public health response order, which implements the new rules, does not offer sufficient privacy protection.
There are several concerns regarding the possible use of contact-tracing data to other purposes.
by the police and other government agencies that have enforcement powers to investigate or enforce matters
New Zealand’s privacy laws have relatively low penalties (up to NZ$10,000), compared to Australian laws that protect contact trace data (up A$250,000 and five years imprisonment).
It should be relatively easy to improve the protection of contact-tracing information. Fortunately, we have Australian law to help us. This will increase participation and improve confidence in the privacy of contact-tracing data.
Participation in record-keeping before New Zealand’s lockdown was likely to have been too low. While we don’t know the exact number of people who kept pen-and-paper diaries before New Zealand’s current lockdown, it is likely that only 10-15% of New Zealand adults were regularly scanning QR codes or manually entering data in the NZCOVID Tracer.
Contact tracers need to keep detailed records to determine when and where people were expose to the infectious person. They also need to quickly compile a list of places of interest.
It can be difficult to recall exactly where you were in the 14 days preceding a positive COVID-19 testing. Could make a difference between contact tracer being able to pinpoint locations of interest or the virus continuing its spread in the community.
Customers won’t have to scan in their documents, but business owners will. The exceptions are supermarkets, dairies and hardware stores, as well as petrol stations. However, the new rules allow customers to keep a record of scans in their own journal. They don’t need to use QR codes, pen-and-paper options, or use any other method provided by businesses.
To have significant effects on the spread and development of new variants like Delta, we need all adults to take part in record keeping. moving down alert levels
New Zealand is moving down alert levels and more businesses will be permit to operate. After an alert level change, businesses subject to the mandatory record-keeping requirement will be allow to operate for seven days. This means that there are two things in a practical sense:
Individuals will need to use a pen and paper system to record their visits to businesses. To protect privacy, I suggest a ballot box (rather that a sheet of paper that anyone can see). There is a template. The records should kept for 60 calendar days, preferably sort by date. After that time they must be destroy. They should not be share with anyone else or use for any other purpose.
Customers must scan the QR code, which is require to be display by businesses, or record their visit. To ensure that the system works properly, staff should scan in as well. The Ministry of Health has a new QR code poster design.
Businesses can decide how they will deal with visitors who refuse to record. The order is strict and requires that a record of the visit be made. There are penalties up to $1,000 for not complying. In reality, however, these fines are likely to be applied only against those businesses who repeatedly and flagrantly fail to comply with the requirements.
If a person refuses to sign a record, businesses must decide whether to provide service. If someone is being difficult, businesses can refuse to serve them. Staff should not be forced to tolerate poor customer behaviour or put themselves at risk. This approach should mirror other safety and health regulations such as not serving alcohol or intoxicated patrons.
Even if there is no legislation to protect contact-tracing data’s privacy, the benefits of good record-keeping far exceed the possible costs. A good record could mean the difference between an outbreak being contained and the entire country being placed under lockdown. It is a simple and inexpensive way to protect our communities.