Contact-tracing ‘crucial’ as Covid threatens the Cooks

Thursday August 20, 2020 Written by Published in Health
Mahana Aerenga at Prime Foods, one of the latest businesses in Rarotonga to begin using the CookSafe contact tracing system. TURAMA PHOTOGRAPHY 20081901 Mahana Aerenga at Prime Foods, one of the latest businesses in Rarotonga to begin using the CookSafe contact tracing system. TURAMA PHOTOGRAPHY 20081901

There is debate about making the CookSafe contact tracing system mandatory for organisations, as New Zealand imposes a legal requirement on businesses to offer the safety service.

Over the coming weeks while the country’s border is closed, publicity and information about the CookSafe contact tracing system will be ramped up with advertising and greater presence on social media.

Almost 100 businesses and 800 people have now signed up to the CookSafe contact tracing system to date, with numbers increasing daily.

Greg Stanaway from the Private Sector Taskforce, which is spearheading the project with Te Marae Ora, said CookSafe had become even more important given the situation in New Zealand at the moment with the community transmission spread.

“Now that the Ministry of Health has embraced this solution, you will notice over the next couple of weeks a ramped up campaign, a Facebook page is being finalised as is Instagram,” he said.

“You’ll find newspaper ads and other campaigns driven by businesses who are promoting the benefits of CookSafe.

“Contact tracing in this pandemic landscape is just crucial and we are delighted with the response we are now getting.”

In New Zealand under Alert Levels 2 and 3, it’s compulsory for all businesses and other service providers to display a NZ Covid Tracer QR code poster for customers and visitors to swipe.

But a spokesperson for health ministry said there were “no current plans to make contact-swiping mandatory” in Cook Islands. “But contact-tracing is an area that continues to be promoted,” she emphasised.

Cook Islands government legal advisors are reluctant to make it a mandatory system at this stage, Stanaway said.

“Naturally we thought it would be a good idea to make it mandatory to keep everyone safe,” Stanaway said.

“But we are hoping that the messaging and what is happening in places like New Zealand and around the world is enough incentive to say, hey, this is really important. New Zealand will be wanting to see a robust system in place when deciding on an air corridor.

“This is a key element to ensuring our economic future is restarted.”

Stanaway said while the borders are closed, this is a golden opportunity for Cook Islanders to embrace the public health initiative.

“It’s an ideal time for people to get into the habit of presenting a QR code to the businesses who are very steadily adopting this scheme,” he said.

CookSafe is very different to the contact tracing system in New Zealand. In Samoa the director general of health Leausa Dr Take Naseri indicated the country was in discussions with regional governments about the possibility of having a common Covid-19 tracing app.

Most business premises will have a fixed station where people can have their CookSafe cards scanned.

“Let’s face it, not everyone has a digital mobile phone here,” Stanaway said. 

“That’s why Secretary of Health Dr Josephine Aumea Herman wanted to adopt a system that saw a manual or in this case a QR code used instead of an app, and for the phone or iPad to be based at the business premises.”

Stanaway emphasised that CookSafe is not a tracking system.

“They will only be contacted if and when it’s proven they may have come in contact with someone who is showing signs of coronavirus,” he said.

“There are no privacy concerns, that should be the least of people’s worries about adopting this system, they should be more concerned about protecting the livelihoods of Cook Islanders and the safety and health of Cook Islanders.”

1 comment

  • Comment Link Robert Thursday, 20 August 2020 12:25 posted by Robert

    NZ now has 1.6 million users of its app that is a significantly higher uptake proportionally than the Cooks. The NZ app also allows users to have a msg sent to their phone by the Ministry of Health. It makes sense that the Cooks adopt the NZ app perhaps in addition to the Cooks system noting a possible 3000 NZ tourists when the bubble opens is a significant proportion of the Cooks population and NZ tourists are used to using the NZ app

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