How virtual queuing apps and appointment booking systems can be used for Covid-19 contact tracing

Imogen Wethered
by Imogen Wethered

Governments the world over are asking businesses to record visitor details in case Covid-19 contact tracing is needed – how would retailers in the UK cope if this measure was enforced?

Recording consumers details for contact tracing purposes isn’t something that is mandatory in England, but as the lockdown eases on a global scale, it is becoming increasingly commonplace overseas.

With limited time and resources, many retailers are asking customers to record their details using clipboard and pen, which comes alongside a plethora of health and data compliance problems.

That’s why we’re seeing more and more of our customers ask how our virtual queuing system and appointment scheduling software can support with contact tracing initiatives due to the software’s ability to know who was in a physical location at any given point in time and to store data in a secure, GDPR-compliant way that restricts access to specific users and can be automatically deleted after a number of days.

Find out more about Qudini’s virtual queuing system and appointment booking system.

Will the government require businesses to contact trace customers?

In England, anyone who tests positive for Coronavirus is contacted by text, email or phone by the government’s contact tracing team and asked to log on to the NHS Test and Trace website.

They are then asked for personal information including their name, date of birth and postcode, where they live, places they have visited recently and the names and contact details of people they have been in close contact with in the 48 hours before symptoms started.

The government has not asked individual businesses to record the names and contact details of customers as of yet, but this could soon occur after retail businesses reopen from June 15 – or when cafes, pubs and restaurants open in the coming weeks/months.

Our World in Data map showing which countries use contact tracing during Covid-19

How will the NHS track and trace app work?

The government seems to have placed all its contact tracing eggs in one basket – its NHS track and trace app, which is still in testing and expected to launch sometime in June. The app will notify people if they’ve been in close contact to someone that later reports to be infected with Covid-19, specifically those who need to self-isolate, helping to stop the virus from spreading while also easing social distancing measures for the wider population.

The app uses bluetooth signals to transmit an anonymous ID, and forms a digital handshake when one device comes into close proximity with another. The data will be stored anonymously and deleted after 28 days.

The UK is adopting what is known as a centralised approach – which allows anonymised data to be gathered and uploaded to a remote server where matches are made with other contacts. Other governments, as well as Apple and Google, are favouring a decentralised model which stores data on individual devices, preventing the possibility of the government (or hackers) from having access to Covid-19 data on a mass scale.

The problems with the manual sign in contact tracing process

Some governments have made it mandatory for retailers and other business types to take down personal details of all visitors, and with the stakes high and very little time to prepare, many retailers have opted for a clipboard and pen approach.

One country made known for its hardline approach to Covid-19 is New Zealand, which has this week moved to Alert Level 1 lockdown with 0 active cases and a total of 21 deaths.

Under the lockdown, the New Zealand government required businesses such as bars, restaurants, cafes, nightclubs, public venues and public gatherings to record customer details, and with many lacking the infrastructure to record data digitally, opted for a manual approach involving clipboard and pen.

However, this led to a number of high profile privacy breaches. For instance, a customer of the sandwich chain, Subway, was asked to complete a contact tracing form with her name, home address, email address and phone number, and was later harassed by a member of staff who continued to send multiple emails and messages, and requested to connect on social media. Shortly afterwards, Subway launched a new digital contact tracing system that held data securely for the purposes of contact tracing and was only accessible in response to government contact tracing requests.

How virtual queuing and appointment scheduling can support contact tracing

During lockdown, the main way retailers have been able to meet social distancing measures inside of stores is by severely limiting the number of customers in-store at one time and asking the remaining customers wishing to enter to queue up outside.

But when stores reopen come June 15, the pavement will be flooded with consumers queuing to enter stores, posing a huge risk to everyone’s safety. Instead of asking customers to wait in queues outside their stores, many retailers (such as Asda and O2) plan to use a retail queuing system that allow customers to virtually queue on their smartphones or through a store host, and are alerted when it’s their turn to enter the store.

Find out more about virtual queuing systems

Another initiative many retailers are adopting is allowing customers to select a specific time-slot to enter the store via their website or app.

Find out more about time-slot scheduling software

Qudini is a great way to record who has visited a physical location with their name and contact details often captured to check them into store or to book their visit (all abiding by GDPR regulations, of course). We now have some organisations looking at how this data can be retained for up to four weeks to support government contact tracing initiatives. Should someone contract Covid-19, the Qudini software can provide data on who was in store at the same time so that they could be informed. Perhaps Qudini could even play a greater role in defeating Covid-19.

Get in touch with us today to find out more about how our software can support your contact tracing initiatives.

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