Tuesday 29 September 2020

Barriers to entry

The official NHS test and trace app was launched last Thursday, and has reportedly already been downloaded more than 10 million times. It is now mandatory for pubs and other hospitality venues to display the poster featuring the QR code and to accept usage of the app as a customer sign-in. However, a problem is that the app only works on relatively new smartphones, so anyone with an older phone will be unable to download or use it, let alone anyone without a smartphone, or who doesn’t use a mobile phone at all. The government guidelines make it clear that pubs should continue to operate a manual sign-in system for people unable to use the app.

In England, you do not have to request details from people who check in with the official NHS QR poster, and venues should not ask them to do both. Venues must not make the specific use of the NHS QR code a precondition of entry (as the individual has the right to choose to provide their contact details if they prefer). Should someone choose to check in with the official NHS QR poster, a venue should check their phone screen to ensure they have successfully checked in.
However, I’ve seen a number of reports of venues including pubs refusing entry if the app isn’t used. The phrase “MUST NOT” is an indicator of illegality in the Highway Code; I’m not sure that it quite is here, but it’s certainly strongly deprecating that behaviour.

I struggle to understand why any establishment should choose to do this, given that they’re excluding a substantial proportion of the population. I can only conclude it’s rather like refusing to accept cash, that it’s a sign of how modern and progressive they are, and that they don’t want the custom of the old, the poor, the thrifty and the nonconformist.

There have also been numerous reports of pubs and restaurants insisting on customers downloading an app to order, which raises exactly the same issues of social exclusion. A further problem that has been reported is a pub insisting that customers who sign in manually provide ID to back up their details.

I’ve also seen a report of a pub asking a customer with a medical mask exemption to specify the nature of their condition, which is unquestionably illegal. And surely it won’t be too long before a pub refuses entry point-blank to a mask-exempt person.

We are being exhorted to support pubs in these difficult times, but it has to be questioned whether some are really deserving of support. Obviously people will establish what the restrictions are in places they regularly use, and make their own decision as to whether they find them welcoming, but it makes visiting less familiar pubs a complete lottery.


  1. And now apparently Covid-19 can be spread by extended eye contact with anyone not on your table.
    The madness continues.

  2. "The phrase “MUST NOT” is an indicator of illegality in the Highway Code; I’m not sure that it quite is here, but it’s certainly strongly deprecating that behaviour." Must not means just that: you must not do it; and it implies that there will be consequences for those ignoring the injunction. Strongly deprecating a behaviour would be conveyed by should not, surely. As in "a venue should check their phone screen to ensure [customers] have successfully checked in."

    1. I agree, but the fact that it is happening on such a wide scale suggests that neither businesses nor the authorities actually do regard it as illegal. Or maybe the guidance was poorly written.

      Just seen another report of Costa Coffee doing it.

  3. such a palaver to simply get a quick pint, I have voted with my feet taking my wallet with me.

    1. Getting a pint in so many pubs is hard enough in normal times is bad enough.
      The landlords must be loving the excuse to have a legally sanctioned reason to treat their customers as a nuisance

  4. So people are being forced to use the app, regardless of their views on being tracked by the state.

    1. "Live Free or Die" as the state motto of New Hampshire has it.

    2. The app is pretty good with regards to privacy. It has no access to the phone's GPS or location data so does not know where in the world you are. Nor does it know who you are - it asks for no personal information when you install it and it has no access to any information stored on your phone - it doesn't even know your phone number. The only information it gathers is how close you are to another phone and how long you are in contact.

    3. All very well, but loads of people can't download it and are then being barred from pubs and restaurants.

    4. Beermunster - if this all-singing, all-dancing app, doesn't even know your phone number, how on earth will the powers that be get in touch to let me know I've been close to another phone, whose owner might be infected?

      Also, if it can't access my location by GPS, how the hell does it know where I am?

      You're not exactly selling it to me at present, and it seems a whole lot of unnecessary bother just to be allowed into a pub.

    5. it would use the phones mobile data to trigger a notification via the app.

      and it doesnt really need to know where you are specifically, only that you are near another phone with bluetooth enabled and the app, and then for how long you spend near each other, for which it starts sharing handshake keys that are logged, if the user of the other phone records a positive test via the app, then based on the formula of time spent from the handshake keys & distance from each other it calculates via signal strength, if it passes the threshold theyve set, it will trigger a notification via a central server to your phone.

      the QR code just logs you as visiting that location, so if the location started to record multiple positives at the times you were there, but from people your phone wasnt close enough to, it would again notify you.

      in principle its no different from the manual paper based track & trace, but expected to be more reliable as people often forget details of where theyve been or people theyve been near.

      so there is no reason why any venue should refuse entry to people without the app, in the current climate you wouldnt have thought they could afford to be that picky or refuse custom that way.

      but clearly some are doing that, and as every stage of this pandemic has shown there are the actual rules and then there are peoples interpretations of the rules and those are always much stricter.

  5. In the heady days of a few weeks ago, a Sunday evening pub food gathering was planned by me for The Moorings in Boothstown. Having quickly scanned their website for available food I was lovingly greeted with their requirements.

    We swiftly changed location to the Robert Shaw in Westhoughton.

    Of course the latter is now not an option, so I guess the Tommy Burke gets more of my money on a Sunday, assuming it hasn't become bed wettingly Stasi over the past 10 days.

  6. You're names not down, you're not comin' in


    1. Professor Pie-Tin2 October 2020 at 16:31

      I've been in your local and can I just say the woolly hat doesn't suit you.

  7. Has it occured to anyone that the vast majority of pubs want nothing to do with NHS test and trace, or payments via apps? These have been foisted on them by central government, with local authorities gleefully enforcing their latest set of new found powers with dire threats of closure and licence suspensions. Granted, a few pubs have gone over the top, but the problem is that hospitality venues have had a major shift in priority from their primary aim of keeping customers happy to a new one of primarily keeping the local jobsworths happy and not getting fined or closed down, while still trying to keep customers satisfied. Everywhere I go that uses an app or online ordering and payment system will always make a card reader available for those who don't have the technology, and always have a pen and a bit of paper to take details - customers only have to ask.

  8. I don't mind downloading a covid app or signing in. I do object to bring told the only way I can buy a drink is through the app when I went to said same pub a week earlier and that clearly wasn't the case.
    Manageress or person on the door clearly couldn't be arsed with someone who just wanted a pint.
    Shan't return to that pub as that is only place I have been told I can't use cash or card
    Absolute nonsense

  9. Professor Pie-Tin6 October 2020 at 13:37

    And so with impeccable timing Ireland goes into Level 3 lockdown at midnight tonight which is EXACTLY the time our qaurantining from a two week trip to Greece ends.An overnight stop at Gatwick required us to stay at home when at all possible.
    Wet pubs will now only be able to serve drinks outside and to a maximum of 15 people.
    Effectively this means closure for many of them just two weeks after they finally re-opened after more than six months shuttered and several false starts.
    It could have been worse.The Irish government finally grew a pair and over-ruled NPHET ( the Irish equivalent of SAGE ) who were demanding a return to a full Level 5 total lockdown nationwide.
    In case you're wondering there have been no Covid-19 deaths this week and there are 24 people in ICU.
    As it happens we broke our voluntary quarantining on Saturday night for a session at our local knowing this was on the way and we're planning a trip into the city this evening for a final few scoops at our favourite craft beer bar.
    The Level 3 lockdown is planned for three weeks only but I recall them saying that about the total lockdown in March and it took until September before the pubs re-opened.
    A long and gloomy winter beckons.

    1. Professor Pie-Tin7 October 2020 at 21:23

      Amazingly I just had the most wonderful session.
      My local is now only allowed 15 people sit outside at any one time but at 5pm about half a dozen of us hardened regulars turned up at opening time to show support for the guvnor.
      Three hours and half a dozen pints later I toddled off home after some great craic and creamy pints which saw about 14 people drift in and out of the outside area.
      As I was heading home it suddenly dawned on me. Most of those people were topers and smokers who were quite happy sat outside with a few heaters and a tab on the go.
      And as the only pub in town which has invested serious moolah in an outside smoking area they're suddenly looking at weeks of extra action from people looking for a pint because their local has been forced to close down because they didn't make the same investment.
      It's like a reverse ferret smoking ban accumulator.
      Mudgie,I thought you'd appreciate how amusing I find it.
      Smokers are suddenly valued customers once again.
      Result !

  10. I believe that it's possible to turn off the bluetooth permission for the app - so you can scan the code for the premises but the test & trace part of it won't work?


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