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N.S. restaurants get new COVID-19 check-in solution to track patrons

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WATCH: Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil on Tuesday said the province is once again allowing indoor dining in restaurants and also re-assured Nova Scotians that those who want to get the COVID-19 vaccine will receive it – Jan 5, 2021

The Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia has partnered to provide all of its dine-in restaurants with a check-in solution during the coronavirus pandemic.

Since Nov. 23, all restaurants in the province have been required to collect contact information for all dine-in visitors to ensure Public Health can conduct contact tracing in case of an exposure of COVID-19.

While some relied on paper and pens, and some on iPads and similar technology, the Restaurant Association wanted to bring a consistent solution to all businesses. The group represents over 1,550 establishments.

SimplyCast, a company that provides communication technology and software to various organizations, has agreed to provide technology to check-in patrons at dine-in restaurants across the province.

Read more: Halifax restaurants prepare to reopen as COVID-19 restrictions lift Monday

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The new approach allows patrons to use their own cell phones to check in upon arriving to a restaurant.

“Before patrons enter any establishment, they will simply take out their phone, type a keyword plus their name, and send it to 11011. The patron will then enter, show the confirmation SMS, and proceed with (their) visit,” read a news release.

In case a patron does not have a cellphone, restaurants will provide the with a digital form to fill out.

Restaurants will be able to access this solution for free, for one year.

Gordon Stewart, the association’s executive director, said in a release that he is happy to be a part of this initiative.

“We are very excited to be working directly with SimplyCast to offer a solution that is quick and simple for both the restaurants and patrons checking in,” he said.

“It is our hope that contact tracing will assist in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and help get us one step closer to a pandemic-free future.”

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Health officials investigating a Halifax-area restaurant – Jan 9, 2021

The solution piloted in January 2021. Since then, more than 40,000 patron check-ins were recorded in Nova Scotia.

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“We are so happy somebody figured this out,” said Michael Casey, owner and operator or Finbar’s Irish Pub in Bedford, in the release.

“Our staff and patrons definitely prefer this system to pen and paper, which didn’t exactly inspire confidence and our patrons like that their info goes straight to NS Health.”

All information received through the text check-in will be stored in SimplyCast’s platform, to be accessed by Public Health if a patron needs to be warned of a COVID-19 risk.

“We’ve always been proud of the flexibility of our solution and it’s exciting to see associations like RANS find use cases that benefit their members and make our communities safer,” SimplyCast said in the release.