STOCKHOLM: Pub drinkers and restaurant-goers are set to get digital help from Swedish-based developers whose new app aims to make social distancing rules work as the hospitality industry cautiously reopens amid ongoing coronavirus concerns.
Sweden has kept bars and restaurants open for table-only service during the pandemic, but authorities have still fretted about overcrowding.
With other countries now cautiously opening up - the United Kingdom is set to re-open pubs and restaurants on July 4 - Stockholm-based developer Chris Mortimer hopes to help diners and tipplers keep their distance and minimise the risk of spreading the virus.
With Mortimer's app BYEVID, drinkers can either book their pub visit online, ahead of time, or scan a QR code once in the bar, allowing punters and owners to see if the venue has reached its safe capacity.
"So the information we're looking at is - on the map where the place is, how many people are at the place right now and what the maximum is," Mortimer told Reuters.
Owners can vary the maximum number of customers, depending on the rules in their country.
"We also see...information on what they do to keep the place clean in coronavirus times," Mortimer added.
Sweden's state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell - the public face of Sweden's much-discussed strategy to slow the spread of the virus - is not convinced such apps will have a big effect.
But he welcomed any attempt to provide more data that authorities can use to control the spread.
"How much (apps) add to non-digital contact tracing still remains to be proven…most virus spread is done through people you’re already aware of...in your workplace, your family," Tegnell told Reuters.
For Stockholm-based bartender Mawhinna Howell it's a welcome help in the art of managing social distancing rules.
"Its nice to know how many people we can expect, it helps us to prepare for the day," she said.
(Reporting by Colm Fulton; Editing by Simon Johnson and Ed Osmond)