New Zealand using QR codes for contact tracing on public transport

Auckland and Wellington will use QR codes on public transport to assist with contact tracing.

The implementation of the QR codes in Auckland from September 4 comes as the city moves to alert level two after a week at level three.

Masks have been made mandatory for passengers across trains, buses, and ferries, and physical distancing guidelines have been implemented.

Auckland Transport is asking passengers to use the New Zealand Ministry of Health’s NZ COVID Tracer app to scan the codes.

The transport authority had previously been using data from the city’s transit payment card, AT HOP, to track close contacts, however after positive cases travelled on buses and had outdated information on their AT HOP card the added method of tracing has been brought in.

While transport is running at normal schedules, capacity is limited to about 43 per cent due to social distancing requirements. Passengers can check the Auckland Transport app to see how many passengers are on a train before boarding.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said that the local government and public should embrace the new measures.

“Health authorities now agree that it is safe to move to Alert Level 2, but we still need to ensure that we follow all of the safeguards necessary to constrain the spread of COVID-19. Following these rules will help ensure we beat COVID-19 again, just as we did last time.”

In Wellington, which is under alert level two, masks are also mandatory on public transport. Even before the rule was applied from Monday, August 31, more passengers had been wearing masks or face coverings, said Scott Gallacher, general manager of operator Metlink.

“We’ve seen thousands of people wearing masks on our buses, ferries and trains. Social media is awash with people wearing the most fantastic masks, scarves and bandanas and Wellingtonians have kicked off a national trend using the hashtag #OnBoardWithMasks to show their support,” he said.

Wellington’s trains are running at about 30 per cent of their normal capacity.

“We’ve got all the buses, ferries and trains out that we can but we’re asking for patience and understanding at this time. If people have the ability to work from home or travel outside of peak hours we welcome their help,” said Gallacher.

QR enables extra freight movements

Over the past weekend, Queensland Rail has been taking extra steps to ensure that freight rail can continue to transport essential goods to Australia and export commodities to ports.

Over the weekend of April 4 and 5, six freight trains travelled in each direction between Brisbane, Townsville, and Cairns. The extra capacity on the network was enabled by Queensland Rail cancelling a scheduled maintenance closure and only completing essential maintenance on the South East Queensland network overnight.

Carrying household goods, groceries, manufacturing materials, and exports, the freight services are more in demand than ever for businesses, households, and exporters.

“Queensland Rail is working closely with its freight partners to ensure Queenslanders get the essential supplies they need, by keeping the network open to extra freight services wherever possible,” said Queensland Rail CEO, Nick Easy.

Although some long-distance and tourist-focused rail services in Queensland have been cancelled, the continuation of freight rail has been a priority for state and federal governments around Australia. Easy said that the network was open for greater freight movements, if required.

“Queensland Rail is continuing to liaise with its freight partners to discuss any necessary changes to future works to accommodate freight services, should they be required,” he said.

“Most lines across the Queensland Rail regional network can currently accommodate more freight movements alongside normal timetabled passenger services. Reducing long distance Travel and Tourism passenger services has naturally increased network capacity for freight operators should they require it.”