AFL defends contact-tracing after fan told not to use QR code at footy

A man who attended a Melbourne AFL match on the same night as a positive coronavirus case says a stadium official actively discouraged him from signing into the venue via QR code.

The Victorian man was attempting to sign in at the entry gates to Marvel Stadium before a match on Sunday, but claimed an official told crowds not to worry about signing in, before turning QR signs around and rushing people through the gates.

But the AFL has backed its Covid-safe protocols in the wake of the revelation, saying all attendees could be contact-traced through their tickets and QR codes outside the stadium were used as an additional layer of protection.

The fan was told not to worry about using the QR code when entering the Marvel Stadium gates.Source:Supplied

The footy fan, who wished only to be known by his first name Peter, said the QR code system should be “handled differently”.

“It could add to the complacency already out there – especially if it’s giving people the impression that this is really not as important as what the government and everybody’s trying to portray it as,” he said.

Peter attended the match between Essendon and North Melbourne on Sunday with his daughter – in an event that would later make it to the desks of the state’s contact tracers.

Tom Powell of the Kangaroos and Darcy Parish of the Bombers in action during the match between the Essendon Bombers and the North Melbourne Kangaroos at Marvel Stadium on Sunday. Picture: Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

The devoted football fan made it to the stadium’s gates where he said he attempted to use a QR code point to check in to the match, but was soon stopped by a staff member.

“While I was trying to sign in, one of the officials there from Marvel came along and said words to the effect of: “Don’t worry about the QR codes, we’re too busy, we just need to get you through the gates,’” he said.

“And they actually physically turned the card around so that the QR code itself was not visible to the patrons coming into the line to go through the gate.”

Victoria has been slower to implement a state-wide QR code system than other states. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Ian CurrieSource:News Corp Australia

While Peter’s daughter managed to check the pair in, dozens of others were let through the checkpoint without having to sign in.

“I thought it was pretty unusual and went against all the publicity that we were seeing everywhere about QR codes,” Peter said.

But an AFL spokesman said attendees were encouraged to enter the gates quickly to avoid congestion at the entry that could pose a safety risk.

“The message from any stadium officials at the game last Sunday to get fans quickly through the crowded entry gate was acting in the best interests of public safety in order to minimise the amount of people congregating at the entry gate,” the spokesman said.

While it’s mandatory for most Victorian businesses to implement QR systems, the AFL has avoided the stipulation due to stringent Covid-safe measures.

The spokesman said the AFL had introduced measures to reduce risk, including the sectioning of grounds to limit patron movement and the implementation of both ticketing data capture and QR code scanning inside stadiums for efficient contact-tracing.

“Since round six, when buying tickets to matches in Victoria we have required fans to enter the names and phone numbers of every ticket purchased,” the spokesman said.

“The aim (is) to assist the Victorian Government obtaining the contact details of all fans attending to the matches to best assist with contact tracing.

“Once crowds return to matches the message to fans stays the same – when attending the footy, please ensure you download your ticket, arrive early at your designated entry gate and we encourage fans to QR code once inside the stadium.”

The system worked for Peter, because he was contacted by the Department of Health on Wednesday via text and told he was a tier 3 contact of the positive case.

Victorian football fans were rocked this week by news of the Covid-positive person attending the match, potentially placing thousands at risk.

Those sitting in Level 1 between aisles 5 and 28, or Level 3 between aisles 6 and 29 were asked to get tested and isolate until receiving a negative result.

Others who visited the stadium have been told to monitor for symptoms.

The stadium has become one of more than 100 exposure sites visited by infectious people, affecting more than 10,000 Victorians.

The issue has drawn further attention to the state’s troubled QR system, which has come under scrutiny in recent weeks.

While other states have managed to set up centralised systems, Victoria has only made the requirement law from this month.

At a press conference into the state’s COVID-crisis on Monday, Victoria’s chief testing commander Jeroen Weimar said the state had been “concerned” about low levels of compliance.

“At the end of last year we said we need to be sure that there are good QR code systems in place. A number of businesses came forward with a set of different systems. We allowed that, kept a close eye on it, as we started to see that the performance was not what we needed to be,” he said.

“It is so important that we can rely on our QR code system to catch everybody in those locations. Whether that isn’t the case, we need everybody to stand up, check their diaries, if you were there then please come forward so we can test you and isolate you.”

Data collected through QR codes can work faster than the work of contact tracers, meaning potentially infected people isolate sooner.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian this week criticised Victoria’s coronavirus management system, telling Channel 7 officials in her state had been able to stay on top of community spread thanks to the use of QR codes to register people’s movements.

“Every state makes decisions based on the confidence they have in their systems and what is going on,” Ms Berejiklian told Channel 7’s Sunrise program on Thursday morning.

“It also depends on the venues, how many people have actually checked in or not. They don’t have the same consistent QR code system that we have in NSW.”

The Victorian Department of Health was contacted for comment.


• Victoria: May 28, 2021

• NSW: January 1, 2021

• Queensland: May 2, 2021

• SA: December 1, 2020

• NT: November 30, 2020

• ACT: September 2020

• Tasmania: May 1, 2021

• WA: December 5, 2020

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