COVID Contact Tracing Card Trial

COVID-19 is an ever-evolving virus and the world is working hard to come up with solutions to eradicate it and/or minimise its spread.

Contact tracing is a key element in protecting our whānau and communities from COVID-19. By quickly alerting close and casual contacts of someone who might be infectious, and encouraging them to self-isolate, we can prevent the virus spreading and reduce the need for lockdowns.

We have the COVID contact tracing app, but not everyone can use it, like those who don’t own a SmartPhone to download the app or who feel they aren’t ‘tech savvy’ enough to operate it. It also relies on people keeping their phone charged, on them at all times, and remembering to scan everywhere they go.

It’s really important that contact tracing protects all New Zealanders, so the Government is exploring and trialling a range of additional contact tracing technologies, including a COVID contact tracing card. This is a simple bluetooth-enabled card worn on a lanyard or belt clip – and it could be a simple, cost-effective and accessible way to quickly track the close contacts of a confirmed COVID-19 case.

How it works

A COVID contact tracing card is essentially a ‘digital handshake’; when a wearer comes into close proximity with another person wearing a contact tracing card, the ‘handshake’ is logged on the card. If a person tests positive for COVID-19, the data can be retrieved from the card to enable effective contact tracing. The card does not use GPS and the wearer’s location is not tracked – it simply tracks contacts with other wearers.

The Ngongotahā Field Trial

The Ministry of Health, alongside Te Arawa COVID-19 Response Hub and the wider Rotorua community, is embarking on a field trial of a COVID contact tracing card in Ngongotahā, Rotorua.

This field trial will involve between 500-1,500 volunteer participants, who will wear and trial the card for a week. The trial is looking at how people wear and “feel” about the card.

Ultimately this is about testing whether a contact tracing card could support our wider effort to stamp out COVID-19, and is part of a larger toolbox of technologies the Government is exploring to enhance contact tracing.

The trial programme has been underway for many weeks and months. The on-the-ground phase is the final part. The cards will be live on-the-ground from Monday 9th to Sunday 15th November. People can sign-up online or register in person from Friday 30th October to Sunday 8th November at various locations in Ngongotahā.

If you have any further questions about the COVID contact tracing card, you may find the answer in the below.

Te Arawa Involvement

Te Arawa recognised the trial was a way to contribute to the health and wellbeing of our whānau and for the wider protection of Aotearoa, especially our vulnerable communities. We have a large number of koeke in our rohe – and we need to keep them safe. Supporting this kaupapa is another way that we can help.

Many of our whānau either don’t own a SmartPhone or feel they aren’t ‘tech-savvy’ enough to operate it- so the current tracer app is not a one-size-fits-all model. A contact tracing card could be a more equitable contact tracing option for all New Zealanders.

We have proven we have the capacity and capability to ensure the field trial is done well, incorporating appropriate tikanga, management of data and community integrity – a ‘by Te Arawa for Te Arawa’ kaupapa with the opportunity to bring a Māori worldview to this important mahi.

Ultimately, this trial will contribute to the ongoing health and wellbeing of our people, creating more equitable health outcomes for Te Arawa and all Māori across Aotearoa. The trial is for both Māori and non-Māori.

The Te Arawa COVID-19 Response Hub have been involved in the co-design of this research kaupapa and its feedback has been incorporated; through this process, we have ensured te ao Māori is at the heart of the kaupapa.

We have heard āwangawanga (concerns) regarding privacy and the data that is collected. Te Arawa have secured the data in our own New Zealand cloud-based storage with end-to-end data encryption. The COVID contact tracing card does not record your location, it simply exchanges Bluetooth signals with nearby users who are also carrying a card – it is literally a digital handshake.

This is an opportunity for Te Arawa to lead the country and demonstrate our capability to Aotearoa and the rest of the world. The skillset of our people and technologies available to us are second to none. We are trailblazers for our people and Aotearoa, and we are proudly Te Arawa.