Covid 19 coronavirus: Govt considering making tracer app use mandatory

In a bid to boost the number of people scanning the Covid-19 tracer app, the Government is actively considering mandating its use.

More than two million people are registered for the app nationwide but the January average of scans per day fell to just 465,000.

On Monday afternoon, a 15-minute Bay of Plenty Times survey witnessed two of 20 people use the app when entering Countdown Tauranga on Cameron Rd.

At yesterday afternoon’s Covid-19 update, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the use of the app increased significantly when there was an outbreak.

One of the reasons the Government had been hesitant to make using the app compulsory was the potential compliance cost, particularly for small businesses, Hipkins said.

“We will certainly be looking at how we can encourage greater uptake and I’m not ruling anything out at this point.”

When asked why the onus would be on businesses and not patrons themselves to ensure they signed in, Hipkins said it was something being “worked through”.

Health officials are looking at what tools they can give businesses to increase app use and what other countries are doing also.

“Experiences from around the world where they might have roaming groups of people walking around to encourage scanning uptake, that eases some of the pressure on businesses to have to do that for themselves,” Hipkins said.

He pointed out bigger shops, like supermarkets, were “well placed” to have a staff member at the front entrance encouraging people to sign in.

University of Auckland research fellow with Koi Tū: The Centre for Informed Futures Dr Andrew Chen said community cases always prompted spikes in tracer app use.

However, before the latest community cases, there had been a dramatic drop in scans, especially after Waitangi weekend.

The small number of community cases in New Zealand made it hard to convince people to keep up with preventative actions like app use, Chen said.

“The challenge I would put to those people is we don’t know when the case will appear and where it will appear,” he said.

“We’ve got MIQ all over the country [and] people are still travelling … The virus can metaphorically teleport across the country in a short period of time.

“People might say ‘I live in the middle of nowhere, no one is going to get sick’ but these places are not immune from the virus.”

Additional reporting RNZ.

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