Victoria is considering the future of QR-code check-ins after Premier Daniel Andrews announced there was “no contact tracing” anymore.
Andrews said on Sunday the codes were “under very active review” as COVID-19 case numbers continued to decrease.
There are 55,617 active cases of COVID-19 in Victoria at the time of publication — 8,521 new cases were recorded yesterday.
Data completed by The Sunday Age has shown the number of check-ins across the state has fallen by more than half since November. The weekly average is down from 45 million to just 20 million.
Treasurer Tim Pallas conceded on the weekend that Victorians were getting “a little complacent” with check-ins.
Andrews said Victoria’s rules would align with New South Wales’, with a few changes he said he was hopeful for.
“QR coding at the moment is not being used for the purposes of contact tracing because there is no contact tracing.”
Andrews had previously said that there was “not very much contract tracing going on”.
“There might be some very limited circumstances where we would use that information for contact tracing,” he said late last month.
On Sunday he explained the app was mostly used to check a person’s vaccine status.
“What it’s used for at the moment is to validate that the person has the green tick… QR coding still operates in some settings where you don’t need to be vaccinated, like the local supermarket.”
The state drastically reduced its contact tracing system late last year amid the Omicron wave.
Epidemiologists have said QR code check-ins and contact tracing are “pretty useless” in stemming COVID-19 at this stage of the outbreak but states should keep the infrastructure in place anyway.
Epidemiologist at the University of South Australia Adrian Esterman said in late January with case numbers as high as Australia’s, no contract tracing system could stop the spread.
“When you start getting into the hundreds of cases and even worse, thousands of cases, there’s no contact tracing in the world that can manage … by the time that you get notified you’re a close contact, it’s probably a week late and you’ve already had the infection and you’ve recovered,” he told Guardian Australia.
But he said they should remain commonplace in case of future outbreaks.
“If we say that people don’t bother to use QR codes, what happens when the next variant comes along and potentially it could be useful then?” he said.
Queensland removed the requirement for people to use QR check-ins to venues that don’t require proof of vaccination status last week due to a lack of compliance. The ACT and South Australia have also scaled their QR programs back.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet announced last month the government would extend mandatory QR code check-ins until February 28 for most venues, including hospitality and retail.