Govt seeks advice on mandatory QR scanning, face masks in high risk areas

Michael Neilson, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 28 Jun 2021, 4:13PM

Govt seeks advice on mandatory QR scanning, face masks in high risk areas

Michael Neilson, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 28 Jun 2021, 4:13PM

The Government is considering mandatory QR scanning in "high-risk" locations such as bars and restaurants, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.

Cabinet has commissioned advice on the move after daily scans fell from a high of 2 million every day at the height of the pandemic in New Zealand to a low of just over 400,000.

Over time, requiring people to scan would become part of everyday life, much like showing ID in a bar, Ardern said at today's post-Cabinet press briefing.

The Prime Minister said the Government was also considering mandating mask-wearing at alert levels 2 and above at certain high-risk locations.

Ardern said the last week has seen Covid cause significant disruption in New Zealand and it was time to review our "toolbox".

Asked why mandated scanning had not already been put in place, Ardern said the hope had been that people would scan. She also cited the difficulty in enforcement.

The Government had remained "open-minded" on mandated scanning and operators would be responsible for ensuring that people scanned QR codes at high-risk locations.

Asked whether it was the individual or an establishment that would be held responsible, Ardern said the Government was receiving advice on this, acknowledging the extra burden on the likes of hospitality operators.

Hipkins said the Government would be considering the changes to mask-wearing and QR code scanning over the next week.

Ardern said that the changes could be considered reform of the alert level system, but said she was not in favour of further alert levels.

Travel bubble, Aus outbreak

Ardern said that Cabinet was being cautious about re-opening the transtasman bubble and would need to see that Australian states had effective border control measures in place.

Cabinet would discuss the transtasman bubble again tomorrow.

Time would be given for Kiwis stranded in Australia to get a pre-departure test and allow airlines to gear back up for flights before the bubble reopens. The Government had no numbers to hand on the number of Kiwis stuck in Australia.

Ardern said the Government had to be agile when deciding to close the transtasman bubble and Hipkins said they had erred on the side of caution.

The reliance on travellers to declare their movements in Australia meant that nuance had to be sacrificed in order to secure the border, Ardern said.

The outbreak in NSW could have been a "star-burst" event.

Tourism operators affected by the closure of the transtasman bubble would not be able to claim compensation, Ardern said.

Covid-19 Response Chris Hipkins couldn't answer how long the two miners who returned to New Zealand from the Northern Territory mine at the centre of a Covid exposure event had been in the community before being put into isolation.

Hipkins said the two close contacts of the positive Australian mine case were not isolating in an MIQ facility. He said the communities they were isolating in would not need to be notified unless a risk was identified.

Wellington signs 'encouraging'

Hipkins told media that signs were encouraging when it comes to bringing Wellington out of alert level 2 tomorrow.

However, he would like to see higher testing numbers in the Capital. Just under 100 contacts of the Covid-positive traveller who visited Wellington had not yet been tested.

Ardern said that she had been in the opposite terminal to the Wellington positive case and had been monitoring for symptoms, but had not been advised to be tested.

Ardern noted that resurgence payments have now kicked in for Wellington businesses affected by the alert level change and staff having to isolate. From Thursday, affected businesses could make claims.

Hate speech legislation

On hate speech, Ardern said insult was not a high enough bar to be covered by the proposed legislation, noting that intent to incite was key.

Ardern said the hate-speech proposals sought to modernise the language but not to lower the threshold.

She defended saying that political opinion was not covered by the proposed legislation, saying the Government had recommended that it was not included but that the question remained open.

'Spies' in NZ universities

On recent reports of Chinese spies in NZ universities, Ardern said that the Government was concerned by any foreign interference.

Hipkins said there should be no tolerance for spies in our universities, but there needed to be evidence provided.