Covid-19 Tracer Application Vital to Minimize Potential Omicron Outbreak, Expert Says


Consistent scanning of QR codes can significantly boost the efforts of contact tracers to contain Omicron outbreaks, Dr Andrew Chen said.

Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

As Omicron knocks on New Zealand’s door, there are concerns about how the country’s contact tracing system will cope when it begins to spread throughout the community.

The system was put to the test when Delta fled to the community in August. Delta is less transmissible than Omicron.

University of Auckland researcher and technologist Dr Andrew Chen said Morning report that widespread use of the Covid-19 tracer app could prove vital as health authorities attempt to keep Omicron out of the community.

Chen said the rate at which New Zealanders were scanning QR codes was “much higher” than the rate reported around the same time last year.

“The Delta epidemic really took a lot of people out of this mode of convenience and a lot of people are doing it on a regular basis now.

“The problem is, it’s still not everyone, so we probably have about a million and a half to two million people participating regularly and that means there are probably another million or more. that don’t really do it… as much as they should be, ”Chen said.

Although some people became complacent in their contact tracing habits during the Delta outbreak, Chen said the constant flow of information about the spread of the Omicron variant around the world may have led to a rebound in vigilance.

“I think there is a real feeling that the behavior of contact tracing or scanning QR codes is motivated by a perception of fear or a perception that something bad is happening in the community – an epidemic, for example.

“Once Omicron gets here, it will be very difficult for us to take him down and our response will then have to shift to management again.”

With the threat of the Omicron variant, Chen said people who keep detailed Covid tracker logs may well be the difference between health authorities capable of containing a single case from the Omicron community rather than turning into an epidemic.

“If the person who gets Omicron and is in the community has actively used the NZ Covid tracker and has a good diary and has used Bluetooth, it will dramatically improve the speed at which contact tracers can go out and find loved ones. Contacts.

“It will really dramatically improve the speed at which contact tracers can find those close contacts and it will really dramatically improve our likelihood of containing this outbreak to this one case or a small number of cases to start with rather than spreading out of control. . “

Chen said “speed is the key” when it comes to treating any variant of Covid-19 and urged people to scan regularly so that contact tracers have the best chance of tracking any potential spread of the virus. .

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