A Dunedin man has come up with a website to alert people about how long queues are outside supermarkets.

Gareth Hayes is paranoid about queuing outside the supermarket, saying he will go home and come back later if he has to queue.

His paranoia arose partly from living at Wuhan in China about a decade ago, where the virus first took hold early this year, and seeing reports of the virus spreading among people queuing in close quarters at Chinese supermarkets.

"I'm a software engineer, so I created a website called howlongistheline.org to help with this," Hayes said.


The website lists a supermarket, or other essential shops like a pharmacy, with one of three status alerts: No Lines, A Wee Wait or Busy. Stay at home. This last status is for five or more people in a queue.

People are able to update the status, but only if they are at the shop using the location setting on their mobile phone.

Hayes said people could also add a new shop to the website without having to log in.

The website was launched two days ago and so far there are 17 shops, mostly in the South Island, although SuperValue in Raglan was listed today.

It is also a totally open source, which means other web developers can add new features or tweak existing features on the site.

If the website flattened the curve of people going to the supermarket and made a tiny difference to the spread of Covid-19, it would be worth it, Hayes said.

Meanwhile, Foodstuffs is using a text-to-queue service at its New World store in Kumeu.

It works by people driving into the carpark where signs are erected giving a text number and code. After sending a text, customers get a return text saying they are in the queue.


Customers are able to wait in their cars before receiving another text saying they can go into the supermarket.

The Herald is seeking comment from Foodstuffs about the service.

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website