Sunday, November 28

Festival organizer unsure of mandatory Covid-19 scanning rules

A South Island festival organizer says they are struggling to find a way to enforce mandatory scanning before being inundated with thousands of visitors.

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Alexandra Blossom Festival organizer Martin McPherson in 2020.
Photo: Otago Daily Times / Alexia Johnston

Yesterday, the Covid-19 response minister announced that mandatory logins would be introduced for busy venues and large gatherings to speed up contact tracing.

While the measure had received support, others questioned how it would work.

With five weeks to go to the 65th Alexandra Flower Festival, the stress has been mounting.

Events Manager Martin McPherson spent a sleepless night thinking about how mandatory login for his event would work, if alert levels allowed.

The Central Otago festival is expected to draw some 15,000 people and spread across several blocks of Alexandra’s main street.

While McPherson supported the change to mandatory registration for most venues and events at certain locations, he did not believe it would be feasible for the Blossom Festival.

“Aside from putting tracking apps on every lamp post on the parade route and possibly … having volunteers walk around with tracking apps, confronting people and asking them to sign in, I don’t think there is a simple solution to this and I can’t, for the life of me, make it work at 100 percent, “McPherson said.

The events industry would do its best to find solutions, he said.

But he was concerned about having mandatory records when they couldn’t guarantee the app.

“Especially at events that are highly run by volunteers … people will walk away because it ends up being too difficult,” McPherson said.

“I haven’t heard yet and it’s too early to say if we can apply for a waiver, and that’s probably what I’ll be looking for. But I’m also looking at other colleagues in the industry to see how I’m going to handle this.

“As we are one of the first events outside of the post-Covid blocks, we could be seen as a test case.”

He was planning to seek some advice from the government and the event industry, and the expected organizers of similar events, including Santa’s parades, would do so as well.

In Dunedin, Wow! The bar’s owner, Josh Thomas, said the mandatory registration seemed like a no-brainer, especially with the number of sights that came up in the latest outbreak.

“The reliance on people having to look through them and detect all the places they may have been seems painfully manual,” Thomas said.

“Scanning is the absolute key to improving that and shortening future crashes.”

I was hoping it would help speed up contact tracing and could reduce the need for closings or limit its duration.

Managing and enforcing the login was already on his mind.

“When you run a bar, bad behavior from time to time is part of the course. So having a strange person who is a bit of an idiot for logging in or scanning doesn’t affect me at all, they can just go to another bar in as far as I’m concerned.

“The privacy angle is being discussed a lot right now, so I’m already thinking of different ways that we can handle that.”

Businesses that fail to keep their contact tracing records up to date could face a fine ranging from $ 300 to $ 1,000.

Southland District Mayor Gary Tong said the burden should not fall solely on businesses.

“I find it a bit difficult for the business person to make sure of that. It should be up to the person using the premise,” Tong said.

“However, if a business person sees someone who has not seen it, it is obviously worth reminding them. But there should be no pressure on the business person to make sure it is done, it should be the individual who does it.”

Mandatory record keeping would begin seven days after any change in alert level that would allow more businesses to open their doors.

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