A government-funded bluetooth-enabled “CovidCard” trial is being expanded to see how it would work in real life scenarios, whether people would actually use it and how compatible it would be with the Ministry of Health’s contact tracing systems.
Government Digital Services Minister Kris Faafoi explained: “The Government funded a trial run by the University of Otago in conjunction with the Nelson Marlborough DHB during lockdown. The trial found the CovidCard works under controlled conditions, so we believe there is merit in exploring it further.
“After consultation with community leaders and iwi, we have selected the Rotorua region for a further trial involving around 250-300 people.”
The card, which is a wearable lanyard, would enable the Government to identify people within five metres of an individual.
Health Minister Chris Hipkins said the data would only be accessed to trace the contacts of someone found to have Covid-19.
Faafoi said any decision on whether to deploy the CovidCard would be made later this year. He didn't anticipate the CovidCard would be mandatory.
Hipkins added he was "reasonably" firm in the view carrying the card would be optional.
“Key considerations will include whether the CovidCard meets high security and privacy standards and can be used by a wide range of New Zealanders,” Faafoi said.
Hipkins said: “Effective contact tracing is a vital part of the COVID-19 response.
“While manual processes remain the critical component for contact tracing, we know digital solutions can help make contact tracing faster and more effective. This is important from a public health perspective and also in supporting our economic and social recovery.
“It’s fair to say that no single technology to ‘solve’ contact tracing has been identified anywhere in the world. That’s why we need to explore all available technology options.
“We are continuing to improve the NZ COVID Tracer app, which includes looking at how technologies like Bluetooth can be utilised to further support contact tracing and have also been investigating the proposed CovidCard.”