Help needed for Covid contact-tracing

Friday July 10, 2020 Written by Published in Health
At the Café at Beachcomber Gallery, manager Clare Wheeldon said they were doing what they could to help the Covid response. 20070910 At the Café at Beachcomber Gallery, manager Clare Wheeldon said they were doing what they could to help the Covid response. 20070910

More volunteers, both individuals and businesses, are needed for the CookSafe contact tracing pilot. Katrina Tanirau reports.

When Cook Islands’ borders are opened to the outside world again, contact tracing will be vital to protect the country from Covid-19.  The CookSafe contact tracing pilot started on June 19 and was to run for a month.

But Te Marae Ora, which is leading the pilot with the help of the Private Sector Taskforce, is now asking for more people and businesses to take part.

In talks last week, deputy prime ministers Mark Brown and Winston Peters agreed on the importance of “robust contact tracing systems”, if the Cooks-NZ border is to open.

The CookSafe pilot was launched with The Islander Hotel, Kai & Co, LBV, Sails Restaurant, The Café, Tupapa Community Centre and Raro Fried Chicken named as participants.

But three weeks on, few of the businesses have got the app operating yet – and it’s only been used by a handful of people. The Islander owner Rohan Ellis said they were ready to  scan people’s QR codes, “but no one has come in with the lanyards”.

Raro Fried Chicken staff knew nothing about it, and Tupapa Community Centre operator Tere Strickland said they were still waiting for someone to come and install the system.

The Café manager Clare Wheeldon said since agreeing to be one of the businesses on Rarotonga who would take part in the CookSafe pilot, two couples who returned from New Zealand in June had scanned their CookSafe cards. “Because there are no Covid-19 cases here, maybe people really don’t think that it’s necessary,” she said.

“It’s okay while the island is quiet but if it was busy, we wouldn’t have time to pull out the phones and scan the cards.”

Some people spoken to by Cook Islands News said they weren’t keen to have their movements traced and couldn’t be bothered with the hassle of signing up.

Wheeldon said she understood people’s reservations about taking part and being traced because of privacy reasons. “It’s working in places like New Zealand where there are cases,” she said. 

CookSafe gives Te Marae Ora the opportunity to test record keeping systems in the event people need to be reached for coronavirus contact tracing.

The World Health Organization says contact tracing identifies and manages people who have been exposed to Covid-19.

People can register for the CookSafe contact tracing pilot by visiting either the Cook Islands Tourism office in town or the Private Sector Taskforce.

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