3 Mar 2021

NZ Covid Tracer app only available in English

8:02 pm on 3 March 2021

While Covid-19 messaging is available in 24 languages, the NZ Covid Tracer app is not.

A person using the Covid Tracer app

Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Close, close plus, casual, casual plus - it has to be said the different categories for tracing people who might have been exposed to Covid can all blur into one at times.

Spare a thought for people who speak English as a second language.

More than half of those living in Papatoetoe were born overseas compared with 27 percent nationally. Pacific and Asian peoples make up nearly three-quarters of the area's population.

For people who don't speak English as their first language, the Ministry of Health offers Covid-19 messaging in 24 other languages, including Korean, Punjabi, Somali and Samoan, but Papatoetoe locals said Covid-19 messages could still be misunderstood.

Narinder Kumar Singla, who edits a Punjabi community newspaper said the nuances of the various categories of contacts are hard for some people to understand.

"That is a little bit more difficult, those people who are very well acquainted with this can understand what a casual contact, close contact is, so it is really un-understandable and difficult for the common people," Singla said.

What's more, the NZ Covid Tracer app is only available in English.

Tapaita Ram'en, a local business owner and a member of the Papatoetoe Tongan community, said the tracing app needed to be offered in other languages.

"That would be very nice if we had that in Tongan for older people so they can understand, I think younger people have to teach their parents and grandparents how to use it, but it would be very nice if it was in Tongan," Ram'en said.

Tamatoa, from the Cook Islands, said because most Cook Islanders could speak English there had not been many problems for his community, but some people were just not paying attention.

"It's just the people that don't know what's going on around the community, those who aren't paying attention [are saying] 'Oh what's going on, again?!"

Local MPs have been credited with having helped to get the messages through to the many different communities in Papatoetoe.

Ram'en said local Labour MP for Panmure-Ōtāhuhu Jenny Salesa haf been vital in getting information out in Tongan.

"There is a Tongan MP, she's trying to explain from her side and for those who don't speak English, they can understand her in Tongan.

"For me, it's easy for us to understand and we support the government in what they are doing," she said.

Ram'en said more local politicians needed to step up.

"For the MPs from different nationalities, they have to come out on Facebook and talk in their language, for their own people."

In a statement, the Ministry of Health said its Healthline team provided support in te reo Māori, Mandarin, Cantonese, Hindi and a number of Pacific languages.

The Tracer App will support other languages in future releases, but this had taken a back seat to other priority updates, it said.

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