It’s claimed a new Aberdeen-wide contact tracing system would have made “instant” work of August’s coronavirus outbreak, which plummeted the city into a second lockdown.
The 4Entry scheme – which, it is hoped, will be adopted by shops, cafes, bars, restaurants and their customers – is an effort to regain the confidence of the public in Aberdeen and further afield that venues are safe, after being forced to close for three weeks as a result of the Covid cluster.
The £25,000 technology issues customers with a centrally-held QR code, meaning those same details are shared with all participating venues upon entry.
Accessed through an internet browser on your smartphone, there are no downloads before the code is scanned on arrival.
Owner of Club Tropicana, Tony Cochrane, had the idea after noticing the individual sign-in process was a major cause of queuing at one of his venues in Dundee.
He told The P&J: “4Entry gives instant access through its central hub, which we have found allows better tracking around the city.
“Existing systems are just different ways of signing a piece of paper and you could write Joe Bloggs – staff are just going through the motions in some cases, a box-ticking exercise.
“With the August outbreak, this would have tracked everyone to all the bars they had visited instantly.
“One of the delays in August was finding people’s 21-day hospitality history, which this provides down to who is sitting at which table.
“It’s a great tool for the NHS, within seconds they could know all the people in here as opposed to taking days to phone people.”
The technology would allow for authorities to impose strict limits on customers – either in line with the government’s levelled system or as an extra precaution.
For example, Mr Cochrane explained, health bosses could impose a three-bar maximum with a 24-hour period, enforce curfew and closure times, or even bar people meant to be self-isolating from entering venues.
But co-leader of Aberdeen City Council Jenny Laing said they did not plan such draconian measures just now.
Mrs Laing added: “Since we had the local lockdown we have been very impressed by the way the hospitality sector has stepped forward.
“They want to play their part in making it safe for residents and visitors to enjoy the city.
“We saw issues were perhaps caused by people moving from establishment to establishment or too many crowding together.
“This system has facilities to prevent that and help us to remain at Level 2.”
On Tuesday, Mrs Laing’s co-leader Douglas Lumsden promised “extra enforcement” of Level 2 rules, to ensure the public played their part in controlling a swell in case numbers.
Aberdeen’s 4Entry system is thought to be a global first in having its central registration system for contact tracing.
Aberdeen City Council put £15,000 towards it, with business improvement organisation Aberdeen Inspired contributing the remaining £10,000.
Siberia Bar director Stuart McPhee, the spokesman for Aberdeen Hospitality Together, added: “A universal entry system that can be applied to all businesses across the city shows just how far we have come in a few short months.
“I would openly encourage as many businesses as possible to sign up to the 4-entry initiative.
“We had a reputation as a safe city before all of this and it’s one we are very much looking to restore.”