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Covid Card trialled in Rotorua

Wednesday, 5 August 2020  
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Picture: Health Minister Chris Hipkins and director general of health Ashley Bloomfield


eHealthNews.nz editor Rebecca McBeth

 

The government will trial the use of a Covid Card to support contact tracing, before making a decision about its wider use later in the year.

Health Minister Chris Hipkins announced the trial at a press conference on August 6, describing the card as “another tool in our Covid-19 toolbox”.

The proposal is for a low cost credit-card sized item which will be on a lanyard around people’s necks and will log interactions with other cards up to five metres away using Bluetooth technology.

“National assessments have indicated that the Covid Card works under controlled conditions and has the potential to make contact tracing faster,” Hipkins said. 

“We'll be carrying out further work over the next few months, to see how it could be implemented in New Zealand.”

The trial will involve 250 to 300 people testing the card in a real-world scenario. Also, whether it is compatible with the contact tracing system and if the public would accept and use the cards. 

He said developing of the card has cost $1 million so far.

A decision on whether to continue with the card will be made later in the year and the government does not anticipate that it will be made mandatory.

The card will not store location data, but will record the length and distance of interaction with other people who have cards who are up to five metres away. Information will only be used if a person has a close contact of a confirmed Covid-19 case and contact tracing is required.

“Effective contact tracing is a vital part of our response, while a manual process will remain the critical element of our context tracing system,” Hipkins explained.

“We do know that digital solutions can make our contact tracing faster and more effective.”

He said no single technology to solve contact tracing has been identified anywhere in the world and the government is also continuing to improve existing tools like the COVID Tracer App, which now has more than 650,000 registered users.

“We enjoy freedoms that so many others don't, but it isn't scaremongering to say that that could all change, and it all could all change very quickly,” said Hipkins. 

“That is a statement of fact and we only need to look at Australia to see that.”

“Our best chance of preserving the gains that we have all made of keeping the freedoms that we all now enjoy is to stay ever vigilant.”

 

If you would like to provide feedback on this news story, please contact the editor Rebecca McBeth.

 

Read more news:
Covid Tracer App updated as uptake lags
Bluetooth functionality to be added to contact tracing app


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