TODAY |

We can't rely on Covid-19 tracer app - researcher warns

New research from the University of Otago says digital tracing options should only operate in conjunction with manual contact tracing, rather than be solely relied upon.

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This comes as businesses are required to display the Government’s Covid tracer QR code. Source: 1 NEWS

“We need to make sure we have a wide variety of public health tools. There are areas where digital contact tracing aids can help us in the fight [against Covid-19], but unfortunately there’s not a lot of empirical evidence of them working,” one of the study’s co-authors, Tim Chambers, explained.

Contact tracing operations used in the review reported digital data entry and management systems were faster to use than paper systems for recording of new contacts and monitoring of known contacts and possibly less prone to data loss.

But the researchers concluded there is “very low certainty evidence” contact tracing apps could make a substantial impact on the spread of Covid-19, while issues of low adoption, technological variation and health equity persist.

“Automated solutions should be used to support manual solutions,” said Mr Chambers.

From midday August 19 it became a legal requirement for businesses to display QR codes from the government’s Covid Tracer App on site, as part of the Covid-19 Public Health Response (Alert Levels 3 and 2) Order 2020.

If a business is found to not be complying, an on the spot fine of up to $400 may be issued.

The Prime Minister said there will be enforcement regimes for this in place but also asked members of the public to report issues as well.

The codes form a digital diary to help a person keep track of their own movements and can alert people of possible exposure to the virus.

More than 1.5 million individuals have downloaded the Covid Tracer App, with 106,464 unique codes issued to businesses to put up across 266,137 locations.

To date there have been 8.4 million check-ins via the app.

The Tart Tin bakery in Dunedin has been displaying a QR code for customers to use since the country first entered Alert Level 2 in May.

“It’s really good, everybody’s using, we’ve only had one or two people who’ve not been using it and so we just take their names,” said owner Matt Cross.

In Wellington, one Turkish restaurant worker said they were only made aware of the legal requirement yesterday.

“I’ve just put it up. I was told to do it on Wednesday, I mean, before Wednesday 12 o’clock.”

Along Wellington’s Lambton Quay, every business appeared to have a code displayed before the 12pm deadline.

But not all customers used scanned in when grabbing a bite to eat or entering a shop.

Dr Ashley Bloomfield said QR codes could be a part of New Zealand’s ‘new normal’, so it’s time to start using them.

“There will be some things we will have to routinely do that we weren’t doing before, one of those things, of course, is using the app regularly.”

Dr Bloomfield also asked businesses to make sure the codes are accessible to wheelchair users and should not be displayed higher than 130cm off the ground.

Companies today were also reminded to have an alternative for those not using the app or who struggle with technology.