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Bluetooth-enabled CovidCard to be trialed in Rotorua among 250-300 people; If rolled out, Govt anticipates use of card wouldn't be mandatory

Bluetooth-enabled CovidCard to be trialed in Rotorua among 250-300 people; If rolled out, Govt anticipates use of card wouldn't be mandatory
Kris Faafoi.

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.”

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24 Comments

Google sent me a copy of all the places I'd been and shopped at in the last month, this morning. In fact, it included places I hadn't shopped at, but just visited!
Isn't that a good alternative?

If people are willing to share the data, yes.

It's only needed if there's an outbreak. You can then 'hand in' your data as part of any other testing you need to do with then Man in the BeeKeeper suit and the long cotton bud....?
(NB: I guess I must have 'allowed' some sort of tracking app as part of Location being active)

You also need the data from the people that you don't know that you need to test -- that's the point, so you can figure out who else to test. So basically everyone would have to enable the tracking and hand over the data.

If the app just kept a breadcrumb trail of where you'd been that could be manually uploaded in the event you test positive then all that would be needed would be a published list of places & times from all infections - then your app on your phone (or card/dongle/thing) could just periodically phone home to pull that list, cross-reference against it's own internal breadcrumb trail and if there's a hit alert you and tell you to go get tested.

I think it's great that they're trying it. Apps have pretty much been a flop everywhere so far.

How is a trial of 250-300 people going to be of use? How many times are the trial participants going to come in contact with each other?

Unless they're sampling the population from a specific group of users, like a politech or something, but then if they did that they wouldn't be getting a sample that reflected the general population particularly well.

that's why they are trailing in Rotorua , population of 75k so 250-300 is a good size if you think that if everyone had one and what are chances you would come across someone that had covid.
its an experiment in reverse, so at the end if they find some people do come in contact the numbers and where would give a good indication of how many of the population would need one to be successful.
I like the idea, much better than phone data

Unless when people do actually cross paths and the card fails to record it and the people themselves don't know that the card missed it so can't report that the card didn't work. That's the part that this test won't be able to prove works.

I guess the solution to that would be to GPS the people for the test, easy enough to do just buy them all a watch

The phones have GPS. The data is available already, it just needs to be "formally" linked to a person.

This is well worth a read https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/12/19/opinion/location-tracking...

I don't carry my phone everywhere, especially during the day at work but I always have my lanyard on

It's a good thing that Kiwis don't care about their civil liberties so much, and will easily give up their freedoms for what they are told will be "security."

I'm not sure that's true. Not many took up the QR app, and I imagine fewer would do so with this. I certainly wouldn't given the possibility they could turn up at your door, demand a test be done and/or force you to self-isolate.

so you would rather not know you had been in contact, or be like the things in Melbourne that knew they might have covid but still went to work or shopping anyway

What percentage of people disable activity tracking on their mobile devices? And what freedoms or liberties are given up by not disabling it?

Covid 1984

Big Brother ( Government ) is watching and wants to trace your every move . Nobody told me NZ is another state of China or Russia

Ha your corporate rulers are already watching and tracking your every move, online and offline. Who do you think provides the service to government?

Ideally, big brother should be protecting you from the imperialists not enabling them.

hmmm 2.5 hour old story, I expected more nanny-state/mah free-dumbs type comments. Interest.co.nz commentors, you disappoint me today..

Or they could actually make the COVID19 app actually useful by utilising the Google/Apple API. Canada, Ireland and Germany can do it, why can't we?
If you think it is difficult to get people to download an app to their phone and then effectively do nothing after that, then imagine trying to get everyone to wear some government lanyard on them every time they leave the house? I can see the value in offering the lanyard as an option for people who want to participate but are unable to access a decent enough phone, or something like that, however the primary tech tracing weapon should be a decent app.

The email we got from Ash the other day talked about 'considering technologies like Bluetooth' but it has just been talk so far for months. If the government is unable to do it themselves they why can't they just put out some kind of tender and get someone else to do it in a tenth of the time?

I don't have a smart phone. My wife has, but doesn't know how to "download and app." My friend is tech savvy, but his operating system is not compatible with the app. I do not know anyone who has the tracing app on a phone and uses it. But no doubt the designers of the system live in a world where everyone has an up-to-date smart phone that they carry with them everywhere.
The system described here will register proximity with persons, which is what the contact tracers need. The app at best registers entry to some businesses by some people. It's a system of so little apparent utility that the motivation to use it cannot be widely maintained until there's an alarm. The time it would have been useful is five days or more before there's an alarm.

You are in the minority, between IOS and Android you'd cover >90% of the cellfones out there these days, and at least 80% of the population between 15 and 60.

You're right about the current app being useless, but if you added the bluetooth functionality and location tracking to it you'd probably get all the benefits of the covid card, and also know about places people had been but not been in contact with others.

I will not use the app, but I would use this. What is the critical mass?

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