New Zealand to pilot NFC tags for Covid tracking

New Zealand Covid tracking app using NFC tags
DIGITAL DIARY: Users tap their phone on an NFC tag to record their movements or add a location manually

Residents of Wellington in New Zealand will be able to record their movements directly into a digital diary on the NZ Covid Tracer app by tapping an NFC tag with their NFC smartphones at locations trialling the tap-and-trace technology.

The NFC tags are being tested at Te Herenga Waka — Victoria University of Wellington and a number of nearby cafés and fitness centres and, when tapped, will automatically open the Covid Tracer app in a user’s smartphone and add a record of their presence at that location.

Records of the locations that a user visits are held directly on their smartphone and only users who test positive for Covid-19 are asked to share the digital diary of their movements.

New Zealand’s Ministry of Health launched the Covid Tracer app in May 2020 as a means of facilitating contact tracing when a case of Covid-19 is detected.

To date, app users have been able to automatically add records to their digital diary by scanning QR codes displayed on posters at participating businesses, public buildings and other locations.

The NZ Covid Tracer app also supports Bluetooth tracing to allow users “to create an anonymised record of the people you’ve been near” so that “if you or another app user in your community tests positive for Covid-19, a Bluetooth alert can be sent to quickly notify any other app users who have been in close contact”.

“Keeping a digital diary of the places we’ve visited can really help with rapid contact tracing when a case of Covid-19 is detected,” says the Ministry of Health’s Shayne Hunter.

“We already have a private, easy way to do that with the NZ Covid Tracer app, so we’ll be looking to see in this trial if NFC tags can make the app even easier to use.”

The trial is due to run for four weeks and “will inform decisions about a potential wider rollout”.

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