Contact tracing is one of the key elements that can help reduce the spread of the COVID-19 corona virus, both when locked but especially after that. However, most contact tracing is done manually, relying on people’s memories, travel records, and other pieces of data that slow down the process significantly. The government is now looking for technological alternatives and one of the newest and most promising solutions proposed in New Zealand is nothing more than a Bluetooth-enabled credit card size tracker.
CovidCard, as it is called, works almost like a popular Bluetooth Tile tracker. But instead of just broadcasting its whereabouts and location, CovidCard communicates with other cards at close range, basically making logs of people (or cards) that you have contacted. When someone tests positive for COVID-19, health workers can download the log from the card and remind the right person.
To some extent, it works in the same way as application-centric solutions such as those recently announced by Google and Apple and TraceTomorrow Singapore. The latter, however, was found to have many problems ranging from not many people downloading it in the first place to iOS which required it to run in the foreground and even work. Google and Apple solutions can be included in Android and iOS to solve these problems but there are still questions about privacy among others.
CovidCard can handle most if not all of them. The cards are unclear and can be left at home if people want to “opt out” of contact tracing. They don’t have location data, only IDs from other CovidCards that come in contact with it and only the New Zealand COVID-19 response team will have contact details of people associated with the card. The card’s battery is expected to last for one year and will be destroyed as soon as the pandemic ends.
This is not a very easy solution, and the New Zealand government still considering possible options, including application-based solutions based on TraceTogether. It may have to weigh quickly because the model shows that if contact tracing is not carried out properly after the lock is lifted, the case will skyrocket, making quarantine meaningless in the first place.
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