How Effective is New Zealand’s COVID Tracer App?

Date Oct 19, 2020
Blog category Mobile Phone
By Staff Writer

Thanks to the series of quarantine protocols, mass testing and contact tracing systems, New Zealand was able to mitigate the spread of the virus. The government has also welcomed the use of technology through the NZ COVID Tracer App released last May 20, available in Apple’s App Store and Google Play Store. 

But NZ isn’t the only country to embrace technology to win the fight against Coronavirus. Other Asian tech centres like South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore have successfully used different technologies to contain the virus.

To test the effectiveness of the NZ COVID Tracer App, we've compared it against other successful COVID-19 digital contact tracing apps. Here’s a quick overview...

How the NZ COVID Tracer App works

The NZ COVID Tracer App works by scanning the QR codes outside cafes, restaurants, shopping centres, and other public spaces. Once scanned, your phone will vibrate to indicate that your tracing has been successful. You may also add other essential details as you wish, and simply click ‘Done’ for your information to enter the database. 

In places where there’s no QR codes like playgrounds or local retail stores, you may manually enter your details. Click ‘Done’ when you’re finished to successfully register your information.

The NZ Covid Tracer App is more accurate than manual data entry as it works like your personal tracking device to easily administer contact tracing if ever a local transmission occurs.

How the NZ Covid Tracer fares against other COVID-19 digital contact tracing apps

Unlike other COVID-19 digital contact tracing mobile apps, the NZ COVID Tracer App involves a lot of complicated steps — which may pose as a hassle to Kiwis.

Australia’s CovidSafe uses Bluetooth between phones to register every interaction — also known as ‘handshakes’ — lasting 15 minutes, The data is stored on the user’s phones for 21 days, and will be permanently deleted after that period. Once the user tests positive for the virus, they can upload their ‘handshake’ list to the health department, which will then be used to trace every at-risk individual. This is based on Singapore’s TraceTogether, which also uses the same cryptographically-encoded handshakes.

South Korea’s Corona 100m and Corona Map will alert you when you’re near a person who has tested positive for COVID-19. Using the data from the county’s health department, it will tell you the patient’s diagnosis date, nationality, age, gender, and prior visited locations.

Is it more effective than other mobile phone tracking apps?

The simple answer is no, because Kiwis aren’t willing to take the extra time to scan the QR code as well as manually enter their information.

The elderly and Kiwis who aren’t well-versed in technology may also have a hard time scanning and typing their information every time. Instead of easing the process, it may lead to long queues in public places, which is the perfect recipe for COVID-19 transmission.

Kiwis also cite several data privacy concerns. They’re worried that their information will be used for advertising and other non-essential purposes. Aside from this, New Zealand contact tracing is voluntary. People aren’t mandated to use the app wherever they go — which lessens its effectiveness all the more. 

Read: The New Zealand Privacy Bill: What You Need To Know

What can the NZ government do to improve contact tracing?

The NZ government can make the use of NZ COVID Tracer App mandatory. Some may believe that the app isn’t needed anymore as NZ already won the fight against the virus even without contact tracing. However, the government’s methods like the hard lockdown are found to be rather ‘old-fashioned’ and costs severe economic damage, according to Dr John Hopkins — a law professor at the University of Canterbury. 

Moreover, the call for rigorous contact tracing has been more apparent with the recent local COVID transmission in Auckland on Saturday. It’s a reminder that NZ still needs to impose strict health measures like wearing masks in public and observing physical distancing, as COVID-19 isn’t going to disappear anytime soon.

Luckily, the government is doing its best to regularly update the NZ COVID Tracer App to keep yourself, your friends, your whānau, and your community from the virus.

What can you do to help this battle?

We have been doing a great job in winning the battle against COVID-19, so let’s all look out for one another. As Auckland Mayor Phill Goff said, “We all know what to do: get a test if you feel sick, follow good hygiene practices including regular hand washing, and keep track of your movements with the NZ Covid Tracer app.”

It’s also essential to be updated on the latest news whenever, wherver! With just a few clicks, you must get immediate updates about confirmed local transmission and new health protocols, as advised by the World Health Organization and local authorities. Get the right mobile internet plan to stay connected!

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