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Covid check-ins could end at cafes, shopping centres in NSW if cases keep falling

Coronavirus check-ins at certain venues deemed low-risk could end before Christmas if cases keep falling.

Mandatory QR code check-ins at certain NSW venues deemed low-risk could end before Christmas if coronavirus cases keep falling.

Shopping centres and cafes would be the first to abandon the practice and could return to voluntary sign-in if the health advice allows, The Sydney Morning Herald first reported on Friday.

But mandatory check-in for higher-risk venues such as gyms, weddings and pubs would likely remain into next year – and Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello expects the rules will be turned on and off depending on Covid-19 outbreaks.

“I admit the system isn’t the best customer experience and as the architect of this digital infrastructure, I will not hesitate to remove it when appropriate,” Mr Dominello confirmed in a statement to news.com.au

“We are still living in pandemic conditions and the technology continues to play an important role in assisting contact tracers. We will remove this requirement when Health advises it is safe to do so but for now the status quo remains in place.”

He added, “I am optimistic we can retire the use of QR codes in lower-risk settings in the near future, subject to case numbers and vaccination rates. NSW’s world-leading vaccination rate means blue skies beckon for 2022.”

The Sydney Morning Herald reports people in NSW checked in almost 240 million times in October, up from 168 million the previous month.

More than 700,000 Covid-19 case alerts were sent to people via the Service NSW app in the first three weeks of October, notifying them to monitor for symptoms.

Mr Dominello told the newspaper the push notification function would be crucial as the state learns to live with the virus.

NSW Health has been contacted for comment.

In August, NSW Health stopped publishing “low risk” exposure sites across Sydney such as supermarkets and takeaway venues – which had previously made up a large bulk of the lists – as the numbers grew to thousands of locations, becoming unworkable.

“We’ve learned that people get lost in the detail when we put up venues that we don’t think are risk places on the website or in the media,” deputy chief health officer Dr Jeremy McAnulty said at the time.

“We just don’t see very much transmission at all in … supermarkets, shopping centres and so on. So we’re now deliberately prioritising in the metropolitan area venues or places where people have been in households, in other households not their own, in workplaces, and high-risk settings such as hospitals, aged care facilities, educational settings, including childcare settings.”

As of Friday, 91.4 per cent of NSW residents aged 16 and over are fully vaccinated.

Daily coronavirus case numbers have steadily fallen to the low hundreds in recent weeks as vaccination rates have increased.

On Thursday there were 199 Covid-19 cases in hospital and 29 in intensive care, with 14 requiring ventilation.

It comes as the NSW upper house prepares to debate a bill that seeks to lock-in privacy protections for contact tracing information, ensuring it can only be used for public health purposes.

Police in several states, including Western Australia and Queensland have been criticised by privacy advocates for accessing check-in data to solve unrelated crimes. Victoria Police tried on three occasions but were denied access.

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