The Check In CBR app will be mandatory for "restricted" businesses and venues from Saturday.
Here's a look at what it will mean for businesses and patrons.
What are "restricted" businesses?
The ACT government defines "restricted" businesses and venues as those which have been affected by public health directions.
These industries may have been shut down during lockdown and may have had patron limits.
In other words, "restricted" businesses are "non-essential" businesses.
This covers a wide range of venues and activities including food courts, museums, places of worship, brothels, nail salons, gyms, cafes, cinemas and more.
An ACT government spokesperson said all restricted businesses had been contacted in February to notify them about the mandatory use of the app and were given instructions on how to register.
"The government has also been working closely with stakeholders and industry groups to ensure businesses are aware of their obligations," the spokesperson said.
"All businesses that were already registered for the app have also been sent letters to inform them that it is now mandatory for customers and visitors to check in."
What about supermarkets?
For some of us it's already second nature to whip out our smartphone and check in before entering our favourite brunch spots or nightlife haunts.
However many supermarkets have not made shopped use the Check In CBR app.
The Check In CBR app will not be mandatory for supermarkets and other businesses including pharmacies, certain retail stores, and petrol stations because these businesses are not classed as "restricted".
These businesses are not restricted because they are considered "essential services".
An ACT spokesperson said at this stage essential services would be required to use the Check In CBR app.
However the government recommended essential services use the app even though it is not mandatory for them.
The spokesperson suggested that businesses such as supermarkets also pose less of a COVID-19 risk than restricted businesses.
"Customers usually attend these businesses for short periods of time and don't spend extended periods of time in one spot or close to the same group of people as they may in a restricted business," they said.
What about indoor shopping centres?
It is not mandatory for indoor shopping centres to register with the Check In CBR App.
Like other venues where the app is not mandatory the spokesperson said shopping centres were recommended to consider registering.
The spokesperson said the government would monitor the situation to determine if changes to restrictions were necessary in the future.
So what does this mean?
Let's say you go to Canberra Centre.
If you want to get your hair or nails done at the centre you'll need to check in at the salon.
If you want to eat in a cafe or at the food court you need to check in.
If you go to Coles or Aldi you don't need to check in, nor is it mandatory to check in at Target or Big W.
But you don't need to check in to enter the Canberra Centre.
For Canberran mall rats; you can hang out at a shopping centre, in a group, doing nothing in particular for 15 minutes or more without needing to check in unless you go into a store that is registered with the app.
What are the penalties?
Businesses and customers who refuse to use the Check In CBR app can face hefty fines.
Individual business owners can face a $1000 fine and businesses owned by a corporation can face a $5000 fine.
Individuals who refuse to check in at a business can face a $1000 fine.
People are also able to notify ACT Health about restricted businesses who aren't registered with Check In CBR via the Access Canberra website.
Do employees have to check in if they work at a restricted business?
An ACT government spokesperson said staff working at a restricted business are "requested" to use the Check in CBR app, "as they will be on the premises for a period of more than 15 minutes".
"With the introduction of mandatory check in requirements, businesses should update their COVID Safety Plans to document how the check in process will occur within their premises," a spokesperson said.
What if I don't have a smartphone?
We all know the feeling. Your phone just ran out of battery. Or you left it at home. Or in your car. Maybe you lost it? Or perhaps you don't have a smartphone. What do you do?
The Check In CBR app does have a function to allow businesses to check in customers who do not have access to a smartphone.
A statement from Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith and Business Minister Tara Cheyne said restricted businesses, venues and facilities "must take reasonable steps to ensure patrons check in."
Canberra Business Chamber chief executive Graham Catt said the ability to check in patrons was a useful feature.
"Managing customers who don't have a smart phone has been a challenge for businesses," he said.
"We will have to wait and see how well this works in a busy cafe or restaurant for example and how customers respond."
If your smartphone is unable to scan the QR code, there is an option to manually enter a numerical code through the app.
What do business and welfare advocates think about this?
Mr Catt said most of the chamber members he had spoken with were supportive of the app.
"What businesses need more than anything is customers, and more broadly, a consistent and sensible approach to border closures and lockdowns," he said.
"Backing contact tracing is key to those things."
However Mr Catt said businesses in Canberra had raised three main concerns.
He said some businesses who invested in their own check in systems had concerns about moving to the app.
"The second [concern] is around how the new rules will work on the ground, as it is businesses who are responsible and liable for fines," Mr Catt said.
"The third, sadly, is that we still hear of business owners and staff who are experiencing anger and even abuse when they ask customers to check in."
ACT Council of Social Services chief executive Dr Emma Campbell said the council had been working with Access Canberra to ensure organisations can meet obligations if vulnerable clients did not have a smartphone, a telephone number or if they faced other barriers to checking in.
"Access Canberra has been very helpful and is working with our members to deal with these very particular circumstances involving a small number of clients."
Restricted businesses and venues
- Licensed venues
- Restaurants or cafés
- Food courts
- Gyms, health clubs, fitness or wellness centres, bootcamps, personal trainers
- Sporting activities
- Swimming pools
- Community centres or facilities
- Event or conference centres
- Indoor or outdoor play centres, arcades or amusement centres
- Musical rehearsals including choirs, bands and orchestras
- Gambling or gaming venues, casinos
- Hairdressers or barbers
- Nail salons
- Tattoo or body modification studios
- Beauty therapists, tanning or waxing services
- Day spas or places that provide massage or steam services
- Strip clubs, brothels or escort agencies
- Real estate auctions, display homes or open homes
- Places of worship, including for a religious ceremony
- Weddings and funerals
- Libraries, galleries, museums, national institutions, historic sites
- Outdoor amusement parks or attractions
- Cinemas or movie theatres
- Concert venues, theatres, arenas, stadiums or auditoriums
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