COVID Complacency: Western Australians ignoring QR code check-in rules at Geraldton businesses

Michael RobertsGeraldton Guardian
Local businesses find it hard to keep track of SafeWA check-ins.
Camera IconLocal businesses find it hard to keep track of SafeWA check-ins. Credit: Edward Scown

Complacency and apathy are tainting the compulsory venue check-in system, touted by government officials as one of our best tools in the fight against any COVID-19 outbreak.

A straw poll conducted by The Geraldton Guardian shows indifference has set in when it comes to signing in at local businesses.

Canvassing the busy Geraldton CBD for a couple of hours last Friday, check-ins were few and far between.

Tallying check-in rates at a busy cafe during the peak lunch hour, less than 20 per cent of the 50 customers took the time to get out their phones and scan the QR code located at the front entrance.

Not one visitor signed in on the paper register while The Guardian sat tallying the numbers.

Asking one of the cafe workers whether it was difficult to get people to sign in, they said “I’m not sure ... it’s hard to keep track of it.”

Down the road at a popular clothing store, check-in rates fared a little better, with about one-in-four shoppers signing in.

A successful QR check-in scan using the SafeWA app.
Camera IconA successful QR check-in scan using the SafeWA app. Credit: Matt Jelonek/Getty Images

Under WA law, individuals can be fined up to $50,000 and businesses $250,000 for failing to follow the mandatory check-ins.

WA Health Department figures show check-in numbers across the State have slowly declined over the past four weeks, falling from just over 9.5 million check-ins per week in August to about 9 million at the end of September.

Check-ins across WA hit a peak in February with 56.4 million for the month — which came just after restrictions were eased following the latest Perth-Peel lockdown — but that dropped to 39.2 million last month.

“We see a pattern that, when there is an outbreak, check-ins will increase and then, weeks after, the check-ins settle,” a WA Health spokesperson said.

“We never know when an outbreak will happen so we encourage people to check-in, even if they’re only at a place briefly.

“SafeWA is a vital tool in limiting and preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the community by enabling public health contact tracing teams to rapidly identify and contact people who may have been to exposure sites.”

Earlier this year the WA Government was forced to introduce legislation that protected the data of SafeWA users after it was revealed police collected information from the app during a murder investigation.

“The legislation provides extra assurance to the WA community that information obtained through contact registers is fully protected,” the WA Health spokesperson said.

“The legislation definitively limits the use and disclosure of contact registration information to purposes relating to contact tracing and mandates storage and disposal requirements.”

Premier Mark McGowan and Vaccine Commander Chris Dawson press conference at Dumas House.
Camera IconPremier Mark McGowan and Vaccine Commander Chris Dawson press conference at Dumas House. Credit: Iain Gillespie/The West Australian

Alongside hesitancy, WA Vaccine Commander Chris Dawson singled out complacency as a significant barrier to the WA rollout.

“I’d be in denial if I said it’s not. It is a real issue,” he said.

But he said his priority was vaccinations. “I certainly don’t have a workforce which is running around (fining) people,” he said.

“I think we’ve had this consent and goodwill and co-operation from the community. I think that’s done us wonders.

“We just need to get through this last leg, get people vaccinated to a sufficient level that we, hopefully, will be able to get to a comfortable situation like we were pre-March last year.”

Mr Dawson has been given a December 31 deadline for 80 per cent of the State’s eligible population to be fully vaccinated.

This week, WA reached the 70 per cent mark for first doses.

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