Contact tracing ramps up at New Brunswick businesses; privacy concerns raised
HALIFAX -- Restaurants and other establishments in New Brunswick are amping up their COVID-19 contact tracing methods. Last month, the province introduced a new policy requiring customers to provide their contact information for public health inspector records. However, the new regulations are receiving mixed reactions from residents and raising privacy concerns.
In Moncton, Hynes Restaurant owner, Jamie Hynes, has recently begun signing in his customers before they dine. The new protocol at his establishment is in accordance with a contact tracing system implemented by New Brunswick Public Health as part of new COVID-19 guidelines.
"Right now, we're just taking your name and your phone number, and keeping a log each day,” says Hynes. “If Public Health comes in, and they ask for it, we can give it to them."
According to Public Health, records of attendees are required, not encouraged, for seated venues and larger gatherings. The mandatory order states "where anyone admits patrons to a venue at which seating is offered for purposes of eating, drinking, socialization, celebration, ceremony or entertainment, they are required to maintain a record of the names and contact information of all persons who attend, and must make those records available to Public Health inspectors."
Some patrons say they don’t mind sharing their information.
"I think it's a great idea,” says customer, Alida LeBlanc. “I love that because it protects us.”
"It doesn’t bother me,” says customer, Jessie Brown. “It’s an extra measure of safety, and they can contact me if something happens."
However, questions have been raised as to how and when the information will be accessed.
"Does this mean that the organization that's hosting the people have to make it available daily, or just if they're asked? They keep the records," says Moncton South MLA Cathy Rogers.
While the province says the requirement came into effect on June 19 – many business owners and customers were unaware of the rule until recently.
"I think its great thing,” says Hynes. “I just wish I would’ve found out by not reading the newspaper."
"I have meetings at coffee shops and different places; the first time I experienced being asked to sign in was yesterday," says Rogers.
However, after months of lockdowns and business closures, many customers say sharing personal information is a small price to pay for greater freedoms.
"I think that’s a great idea because that’s a safety issue," says customer, Raymond Richard.
Meanwhile, local politicians, like Rogers, say while they agree with the policy, there has been feedback from the community calling it a violation of privacy.
"I do understand people’s uneasiness with this,” says Rogers. “We have a tendency to mistrust who is going to have this information and what it will be used for."
However, despite concerns, restaurants such as the Hynes Restaurant will continue to keep track of who comes through their doors in the event health authorities need to track customers who may have COVID-19.
Meanwhile, although the policy is most commonly found in restaurants, Public Health has stated the same requirements apply wherever anyone hosts, organizes or permits gatherings larger than 50 people.