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Germany’s hotel and restaurant federation (Dehoga) has said its members are concerned about their legal obligation to collect guests’ names and addresses so they can be traced in case of a coronavirus outbreak, accusing the police of frequently using the data for other unrelated reasons.

Dehoga’s president, Ingrid Hartges, has called the process “extremely sensitive” and called for clarity from lawmakers, saying that many of its members had been disturbed by what they saw as law enforcer’s misuse of the data.

Under measures to tackle the spread of coronavirus, pubs, restaurants and hotels in Germany are obliged to collect the names and contact details of all guests, so that they can be quickly traced, if it is suspected that someone infected with coronavirus has visited the establishment. The data is to be kept for a month before the establishment’s management is obliged to destroy it.

But a rising number of cases are coming to light of police requesting the contact data in order to pursue criminal prosecutions despite the fact that registration forms which guests fill in, carry the assurance that “data will only be used in case of a coronavirus infection”.

In a letter to its 65,000 members seen by the newspaper group Funke Mediengruppe, Dehoga has expressed its concern about the current situation, cautioning them to ensure that the data is not used for any purpose other than to pursue the virus. Hartges wrote that misuse of the data had the potential to “increase conflicts between patrons and guests”, particularly if guests became reluctant to give their details owing to frequent requests by the police to see the lists.

Elsewhere there are concerns about the lists’ general reliability, over increasing indications that many people are indeed filling out the forms incorrectly, or giving false names. A recent outbreak of the virus which was traced back to a bar in southern Berlin has led to 70 people being quarantined.

But 41 of the guests who were at Brauhaus Neulich on 16 July, gave incomplete or false contact details “meaning that to trace them is extremely difficult to impossible,” according to the health office in the Neukölln district. Eighteen people who visited the bar have been tested positive for the virus.

Whilst the health authorities insist that patrons are responsible for checking the information guests give is correct, Dehoga has said its members cannot be expected to check every guest’s identification against the data they volunteer.

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