It became obvious very early that contact-tracing would be the cornerstone of the public health response to the Covid-19 crisis, according to tourism leader Greg Stanaway.
Stanaway is a member of the Private Sector Taskforce, working with health ministrry Te Marae Ora to roll out the CookSafe contact tracing programme.
CookSafe is coming to the end of its trial period, and he said the voluntary card would be essential to opening borders between Cook Islands and New Zealand.
“The more people that sign up for the programme the safer it keeps our little paradise.”
CookSafe has come under fire from some quarters for being rolled out too slowly, from others for being too intrusive.
Progressive Party leader Te Tuhi Kelly acknowledged some people might call him a conspiracy theorist, but claimed tracking apps allowed the government information about peoples’ movements.
“Take away the word Covid and we are left with tracking apps, if we didn’t have this pandemic would you have downloaded this app?”
However, unlike overseas contact-tracing technology, CookSafe does not require members of the public to download an app. All they do is choose to swipe a laminated card with a QR code when, they enter business or government premise.
Secretary of Health Secretary Dr Josephine Aumea Herman said contact tracing was critical to public health. CookSafe had to work for both residents and visitors, so it could not be reliant on smart-phones, and had to be simple and cost effective.
A lot of time was spent benchmarking it against other solutions happening around the world, particularly in New Zealand, she said.
Taskforce chairman Fletcher Melvin said there was a big difference between tracking and tracing.
CookSafe ensured collected information was used only when there was a critical problem and people needed to be contacted to warn them they might have been in danger.
“Simply put, tracing is where the authorities attempt to find or discover by investigation where a person went and should not be confused with tracking which means to follow the trail or movements of someone or something, typically in order to find them or note their course,” Melvin said.
“This would not invade people’s privacy in real time.”
Stanaway reiterated that the goal of the CookSafe contact tracing programme was to be able to quickly contact people who may have been in the proximity of someone who later shows coronavirus symptoms.
He stressed that people’s privacy was imperative and data was not going to be used to trace a person’s every movement.