Covid-19 contact tracing needs financial boost

Thursday September 10, 2020 Written by Published in Health
Brie Zeman of the Private Sector Taskforce with her CookSafe contact tracing card. 20061805,06 Brie Zeman of the Private Sector Taskforce with her CookSafe contact tracing card. 20061805,06

The Private Sector Taskforce is seeking additional Government funding to continue the rollout of its Covid-19 contact tracing system.

Effective contact tracing to monitor and respond to a potential Covid-19 outbreak will be a requirement for the creation of a travel bubble with New Zealand.

In response, the Government and the taskforce have teamed up to develop the CookSafe contact tracing system, which underwent a pilot earlier this year and continues to see an uptick in its adoption by residents and the business community.

To date, funding has come from the private sector with additional support from the Government.

“The taskforce is seeking funding to get a little more injection of capital, so we can promote this scheme, so when borders are opened we have more robust and widespread adoption of our solution,” said Taskforce member Greg Stanaway.

Te Marae Ora Ministry of Health spokesperson Jaewynn McKay said a funding proposal was sent to Secretary of Health Dr Josephine Aumea Herman last week.

“It’s definitely something that’s being looked at,” McKay said.

The New Zealand Government has made it compulsory under Alert Levels 2 and 3 to display a contact tracing information for customers and visitors to swipe, however government has yet to make contact-swiping mandatory in the Cook Islands.

Those behind CookSafe said the system maintains a digital record of where users have been, such as businesses, workplaces, shops, and eateries. The information will be used in the event of a covid-19 outbreak by officials to trace the movements of people.

Those who agree to use the system will be issued a CookSafe card they can present at participating businesses for scanning. Alternatively, those with mobile phones can take a picture of a QR code when visiting a business and have it scanned afterwards into the system at a prescribed location.

Information tagged to the card’s unique code number or associated with a mobile user – including time, date, and location of the visit – is then sent automatically to a secure database.

Those behind the system said information collected is stored on an encrypted database and will only be accessible to authorised public health officials to protect people’s privacy.

The taskforce said a contact tracing system will be an essential tool in the country’s frontline defence against Covid-19.

“We really want to ensure that it is implemented widely in the community,” said Fletcher Melvin, chair of the Taskforce.“We need it from a health point of view. Should Covid-19 ever break out here, this is the way to get on top of it.”

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