NSW might axe mandatory QR code check-ins for some businesses before Christmas, and it could flag the final stage of learning to live with COVID.
Such a move would make NSW the first state to wind back these kinds of restrictions after Australia’s recent spate of lockdowns.
“I am optimistic we can retire the use of QR codes in lower-risk settings in the near future, following guidance from health [authorities], while maintaining them in higher risk settings for the foreseeable future,” NSW Digital Minister Victor Dominello told The New Daily.
These “lower-risk” venues could include shopping centres and cafes, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.
If mandatory check-ins are phased out in those venues before Christmas, it would coincide with the introduction of new freedoms for unvaccinated adults who have been banned from non-essential shops and other venues thus far.
Unvaccinated adults are due to regain these freedoms on December 15.
That would mean in places like cafes, customers would neither need to check in nor show their vaccination status, thus negating the need for any apps whatsoever.
Double-dose vaccine coverage in NSW is already at over 90 per cent for people aged 12 and up.
“NSW’s strength during the pandemic has been its ability to strike a balance between community safety and enjoying freedoms,” Mr Dominello added.
“A proportionate response will provide the community with confidence and result in higher compliance.”
Much of this public goodwill would stem from a streamlined shopping and dining experience in time for Christmas and the New Year period.
Check-in and vaccine requirements have led to a security guard shortage in NSW as businesses struggle to police the complex rules.
However, venues such as pubs are deemed to be higher risk venues and as such, mandatory QR codes are likely to remain into the new year.
The road ahead
The conversation in NSW is noticeably different from that of Victoria, where unvaccinated adults could remain locked out of many businesses until 2023.
A phase-out of QR codes would only work smoothly when vaccination requirements are also eased.
However, the NSW proposal is still just that: a proposal.
In a post on Linkedin, Mr Dominello hinted that even if the government does phase out QR codes at some venues, they could still be brought back during future outbreaks if need be.
He said Europe’s current winter – which has seen case numbers spike – is “is Australia in May 2022”.
“In Europe, they are now turning back on settings to help manage the pandemic,” Mr Dominello wrote.
“Therefore we must maintain an agile mindset.”