Some restaurants in Nova Scotia are adopting a new system of contact tracing after 10 months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Collecting contact information at restaurants became mandatory in Nova Scotia in late November, meaning restaurants have had to write down the names and phone numbers of everyone who has visited as a way to trace possible exposures.
Now, there’s a better alternative to pen and paper, according to the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia.
“It’s definitely the high-tech version, for sure,” Gordon Stewart, the executive director of RANS, told CBC’s Mainstreet on Friday.
“It’s very simple, it’s fast, it’s in a secure database — the restaurants don’t have to worry about managing the data or holding on to it or releasing the data. The Department of Public Health people have direct access to the database.”
SimplyCast, a communication platform company based in Dartmouth, N.S., developed software that allows restaurants to collect information from customers through a single text message.
Restaurants that sign up for the system will be provided a keyword that patrons will use to submit their name and phone number into a database.
When they enter a participating restaurant, patrons will be asked to send the keyword via text message. They will then receive a confirmation code to show to the host before they can enter.
“This actually logs their visit in a report that can be exported as needed for the specific time stamp,” said Alyssa MacDougall, the content manager for SimplyCast.
Restaurants and bars in the Halifax Regional Municipality and Hants County recently reopened to dine-in service after more than a month of restrictions brought on by multiple COVID-19 exposures.
Now, all restaurants in the province may open for dine-in service but must close by 11 p.m.
MacDougall said anyone who doesn’t have a mobile device will still be able to submit their information online using a computer or tablet provided by the restaurant.
Mainstreet NS9:31‘High-tech’ contact tracing coming to some Nova Scotia restaurants
Stewart said this new system allows restaurants to provide more accurate information to the Department of Health, which can start contact tracing immediately.
“The challenge with tracing right now is it takes a long time,” Stewart said.
“So if you went to a restaurant a month ago and they gave you a bunch of paper with names and numbers on it, it’s pretty hard to go through that, whereas you could take an automatic database, line it up and and you’re away to the races right away.”
The system launched earlier this week. Stewart said he’s still waiting for information about what restaurants have signed up for the service.