Covid-19 contact tracing app gets Bluetooth upgrade

A Bluetooth upgrade to the Covid-19 Tracer app is being launched today.

The Covid-19 tracing app in action.

Photo: RNZ

The upgrade will create an anonymised record created of every person the user has been near.

If one of those people tests positive for the virus, the user will be sent an alert by the app.

It brings New Zealand in line with countries like Singapore that have been using Bluetooth-enabled contact tracing since March.

Though contact tracing will get easier with the Bluetooth upgrade, anyone hoping it will mean less scanning of Covid QR codes is out of luck.

Covid-19 Response Minster Chris Hipkins made it clear the upgrade is not a substitute.

“The Bluetooth technology, it’s anonymised and it doesn’t record location, whereas your QR code tells you where you’ve been,” he said.

“Also we found that in the contact tracing process that the QR codes can be an important memory-jogger for people.

“Ultimately, we’re asking people sometimes to record exactly where they’ve been and who they’ve been in contact with up to two weeks ago.”

Despite the Covid QR codes being plastered on every shop front along Auckland’s Queen Street, not everyone has been making good use of the current app.

Sarah said she had not opened it since Auckland moved down alert levels.

“Getting off the levels, getting off level 3 and 2, it stopped me because you can go anywhere now.”

Sharise admitted she also had trouble remembering.

“I think people have forgotten about it to be honest, but I hope people are still consistent.”

Marie however had been diligently scanning everywhere she went.

“If I do get sick, I want people that I may have been in contact with to be alerted straight away.”

When users log in to the app today, a message should pop up asking if Bluetooth capability can be turned on.

Once approval is given, the app will start collecting data.

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