The Victorian government will now require people to check in at retail stores and supermarkets regardless of the length of time they spend in the store, as new data reveals a huge increase in check-ins to the Service Victoria app once the state forced businesses to begin using it.
As part of the extension of the lockdown in Melbourne, the acting premier, James Merlino, announced on Wednesday that supermarkets and retailers would be required to make everyone check in when they entered into the store. Previously it was only a recommendation.
After the state recorded a number of Covid-19 transmissions at retail stores where the contacts had “fleeting” contact, Victoria’s chief health officer, Prof Brett Sutton, said the change was to ensure records of everyone at potential exposure sites were complete.
“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.
“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.”
The Victorian government launched its Covid QR-code check-in app, Service Victoria, at the end of November 2020 but continued to allow hospitality venues to to use their own QR-code systems to record people visiting.
However, since the end of March, third-party app providers have been required to use the government application programming interface, meaning all the check-in data across the state goes to the one government-held database when contact tracers need it, regardless of which app is used.
The Service Victoria app then became mandatory for all businesses to use from Friday 28 May – coincidentally the first day Victoria entered a one-week lockdown due to a Covid-19 outbreak.
Data obtained by Guardian Australia reveals a significant increase in check-ins to the Service Victoria app in May as businesses began to transition to the single app.
The state had 18m check-ins between 13 and 31 May, out of 39m in total since the app was launched at the end of November 2020.
Victoria’s app still has recorded far fewer check-ins than its counterpart in New South Wales, where the Service NSW app has been mandatory since 1 January.