29 Oct 2020

Bluetooth-enabled contact tracing card trial kicks off in Rotorua

1:43 pm on 29 October 2020

A contact tracing trial has been launched in Rotorua to test the Bluetooth CovidCard technology.

Bluetooth CovidCard trial in Ngongotahā, Rotorua

The trial will last will go on for one week in Ngongotahā. Photo: Supplied

Between 500 and 1500 people over the age of 19 are being sought to try the Bluetooth-enabled cards in the suburb of Ngongotahā.

The experiment aims to understand how the technology works in a real-world environment and whether it is compatible with current contact tracing methods.

Cards can be worn around a person's neck or clipped to a belt and detect Bluetooth signals with anyone nearby also wearing a card to build a record of contacts.

The week-long trial starts on 9 November.

Co-designed by Te Arawa Covid-19 Response Hub, the Ministry of Health and the Universities of Otago and Waikato, the trial aims to understand how the card works, its compatibility with contact tracing systems, and how people will receive it.

Te Arawa Covid-19 Response Hub spokesperson Monty Morrison said the trial would help determine whether a contact tracing card was a more equitable and effective contact-tracing solution for vulnerable communities.

"Effective and efficient contact-tracing could literally mean the difference between life and death for some of our whānau, and we need to ensure we have the ability to identify potential contacts, and reach and isolate people quickly.

"Many koeke do not own smartphones, and large numbers of our whānau have an older phone that does not support the government's contact tracing app."

Deputy Director-General of Health Shayne Hunter said the card had the potential to help with contact tracing.

"Covid-19 is evolving and not going away - we must explore all options to protect our communities here in Aotearoa, and to prevent the need for further lockdowns."

Minister Kris Faafoi and Te Arawa kaumatua, Monty Morrison, at the contact tracing card launch

Minister Kris Faafoi and Te Arawa Covid-19 Response Hub spokesperson Monty Morrison. Photo: Supplied

Government Digital Services Minister Kris Faafoi acknowledged the commitment of the Ngongotahā community and local leaders.

"Their support and leadership of this trial will provide important help for the Government to decide if a card could be rolled out as an additional contact tracing option to benefit all of Aotearoa/New Zealand."

People can sign up online for the trial or register in person from 30 October at various locations in Ngongotahā.

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