TORONTO – Some Canadians eating out may need to providing some personal information before they can even view the menu.
Guidelines for these businesses may vary from province to province. But some of them require the customer to leave their name, phone number or email address and table number, to make it easier to trace those affected by COVID-19.
In Quebec, the government has invited bar license holders to keep such a register. The Lanla firm launched a website last week that can act as a register. Corporate groups hailed the initiative.
Ontario announced Friday that it will require bars and restaurants to keep customer registers for 30 days. This must be returned to the authorities if tracing is necessary.
In Toronto, information collection can be done at the time of reservations or through another system, said Queen City Public Health spokesperson Vinita Dubey.
To date, there have been 116,858 confirmed or probable cases nationwide. COVID-19 has killed 8,945 Canadians.
Canadian health officials said on Sunday that 87% of those affected have so far recovered.
Canadian laboratories had tested nearly 4.1 million people for COVID-19. Over the past week, an average of 40,665 people per day have been tested, of which 1% tested positive, authorities said in a statement.
Ms. Dubey recalled that bars and restaurants present a higher level of risk of transmission of COVID-19.
“As soon as we learn of a case of COVID-19, we take action to follow up immediately,” Dubey said.
Similar guidelines apply to restaurants and bars in British Columbia.
Public health officials in that province have started requiring restaurants to collect personal information from customers when making reservations or when seated. The data must be kept for one month.
Since its reopening, Acorn Restaurant in Vancouver has only taken reservations, which makes it easier to collect customer personal information.
“Fortunately, our customers have been very understanding,” says founder Shira Blustein. Some customers were eager to go out, so they like our plan. ”
According to Gerald Evans, president of the division of infectious diseases at Queen’s University in Kingston, contact tracing carry out in restaurants even before COVID-19 appeared.
Public health officials have used reservation lists to contact diners in the event of a food-borne outbreak, he says.
“It is not a precedent in the restaurant sector for public health to contact traders and obtain this kind of information.”
Mr. Evans recognizes that the inability to verify if the information provided by a customer is correct is a disadvantage.
“Ninety-nine percent of customers will be honest, but what do we do with the remaining one percent?”
If misinformation becomes a problem, governments may have to step in to make sure people show ID cards, Evans suggests.
He argues that collecting customer information is much more effective than “passive tracing,” a process in which public health officials make a broad announcement about a case at a specific restaurant on a specific day. This practice has been criticized by some restaurateurs.
Restaurants Canada vice-president David Lefebvre says there are costs associated with collecting personal data. And it can take a while for places that provide fast service to many customers.
“Our position as an association on this is this, let’s make sure everyone meets public health requirements. However, at the same time, let’s make sure that it doesn’t become too expensive and cost too much. ”