Victoria enforces mandatory COVID-19 check-ins in shops

Health authorities say new rule aims to facilitate contact tracing

Victoria enforces mandatory COVID-19 check-ins in shops

The Victorian government has imposed new rules, making it mandatory for everyone entering shops, including retail stores and supermarkets, to check-in using the Service Victoria QR Code app, regardless of the duration of their visit. The move comes as acting premier James Merlino announced on Wednesday that Melbourne will remain in lockdown for a further seven days in response to the rising number of COVID-19 cases, which health authorities said were due to “fleeting transmission.”

“We’ll also expand our QR requirements to make it mandatory in retail settings like supermarkets and shops,” Merlino said in a statement. “The 15-minute threshold will also be removed, so anyone entering a shop or a cafe will need to check-in.”

Previously, check-ins in supermarkets were voluntary. Brett Sutton, that state’s chief health officer, said the change was introduced to ensure potential exposure sites have complete records for contact tracing.

“We are in a position now where the Victorian community is motivated to do the right thing and they understand the importance of contact tracing in this space,” he said in a Wednesday presser. “And even though we have been doing really well in identifying people at all exposure sites, I think everyone recognises that we have to do absolutely everything in our power to be able to chase down every single person who may be exposed because it is that one person who is not found who may be the one who spreads it.”

Data gathered by The Guardian has shown a large rise in check-ins to the state’s service app in May, coinciding with businesses’ transition to the single app. Between 13 and 31 May, the app recorded 18 million check-ins, accounting for almost half, or 46.2%, of all sign-ins since the app was rolled out at the end of November last year.

The government, however, only required businesses to use the app beginning Friday, 28 May, when new lockdown measures were enforced.

“Stranger-to-stranger” transmission

On Monday, Victoria’s health authorities expressed concern on how quickly the virus is spreading in Melbourne, with COVID-19 testing commander Jeroen Weimer calling it “stranger-to-stranger” transmission.

“With previous variants, we are more used to transmission really occurring in the home, in the workplace, where people know each other already, not all of those big social settings,” he said.

Sutton added that at least one in 10 current cases was transmitted through those casual contact settings.

“We didn't routinely see it in 2020, but we have to bear in mind that all the variants of concern now are really a step up to some degree,” he said. “This Kappa variant... is more infectious than anything we saw in the beginning and middle of 2020.”

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