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Keeping track of Covid

Friday 19 June 2020 | Written by Katrina Lintonbon | Published in Health


Keeping track of Covid
Resident Brie Zeman with her CookSafe contact tracing card. 20061805,06

With no vaccine available for coronavirus, it’s vital Cook Islands remain vigilant as the country prepares to reopen to the outside world.

Returning Cook Islanders and work permits holders flying into Rarotonga from Auckland today will be offered the chance to trial a Covid-19 contact tracing took, aptly named CookSafe.

From today, it can be used at The Islander Hotel, Kai and Co, LBV, Sails Restaurant, The Café, Tupapa Community Centre, Local Life Barbers and Raro Fried Chicken. The next big step is rolling it out at CITC.

The CookSafe pilot is a collaboration between the Private Sector Taskforce and Government, led by Te Marae Ora.

It will keep a digital record of where users have been, in case they need to be reached for coronavirus contact tracing.

Volunteers will be issued a CookSafe card that they will keep with them all the time. Those with mobile phones can take a picture of the QR code and present that image or their CookSafe Card for scanning at venues participating in the pilot.

The scanner will automatically send date, time, and location information to a secure database, tagged to the card’s unique code number.

Information collected will be stored on an encrypted database and will only be accessible to authorised public health officials to protect people’s privacy.

Secretary of Health Dr Josephine Aumea Herman, who in one of those returning today, said the CookSafe pilot would provide important insights to strengthen the nation’s Covid-19 contact-tracing processes.

“Our priority is to keep our residents and visitors safe. Contact tracing is core public health work and we are using technology to enhance our work,” Herman said.

“We are learning from other countries that are using this technology.”

While Covid-19 is the focus, these systems will apply to future public health threats including dengue.

“This is an important learning opportunity as we begin reopening to the outside world. We are checking systems are in place to rapidly track travellers’ movements in public places like shops, bars and restaurants.”

Fletcher Melvin from the Private Sector Taskforce said CookSafe will be an essential tool in the country’s frontline defences against the coronavirus.

“As the new cases in New Zealand show, we need to be constantly vigilant and address any vulnerabilities we have in our systems,” he said.

“The app uses simple technology to help keep people safe, trace possible infections, identify and locate people’s contacts and enable early testing and intervention.”

Melvin said the pilot was a fantastic example of how the private and public sectors could come together to find solutions to the country’s biggest issues.

The trial is open to all interested members of the public and businesses.

Those wanting a CookSafe card can register at the Tourism Office in Avarua or at the Chamber of Commerce office, in the BTIB building.