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Strong Response To COVID Contact Tracing Card Trial

More than 450 people have already signed up to be part of a COVID contact tracing card trial running in Ngongotahā, with several key community events this week expected to see hundreds more become part of the trial.

Between 500 and 1500 people – aged over 19 years and live and/or work in Ngongotahā – are being sought for the trial, which will involve them wearing a contact tracing card for a week and providing feedback.

Trial recruiters have been registering participants since last Thursday, and have attended marae AGMs and other events to attract interest. Today, the team will be at Ngongotahā Primary School between 2pm and 4pm and at Touch this evening.

A marae and community information evening will be held at Waiteti Marae tonight, Wednesday 4 November from 6pm, while a Whānau Day will be held at the Ngongotahā Community Hall this Saturday 7 November from 10am to 2pm.

A number of free activities for kids will be available at the Whānau Day, including facepainting and a free sausage sizzle. The Ngongotaha Railway Park team will be giving out free train tickets, while a number of different community and health providers will also be onsite, alongside the contact tracing card trial team.

Monty Morrison, from the Te Arawa COVID-19 Response Hub, says the trial team has been thrilled with the response from the community to date.

“Within just minutes of the announcement being made last week, we had people signing up in person and online. The response has been overwhelming positive from the local community – and beyond.

“People really understand how important this trial is to help Aotearoa’s fight against COVID-19. The work that we do now – in Ngongotahā – could make a meaningful difference for vulnerable communities and New Zealanders across the country.”

Mr Morrison says the most recent community COVID case in Christchurch is further reinforcement of how important contact tracing is to New Zealand’s pandemic response.

“COVID-19 is not going away and those infected may not know they have it. Contact tracing is our best defence in locating people who may have been in contact with a positive case. The faster we can track the virus, the quicker we can stop its spread and help protect our whānau.”

A COVID contact tracing card can be worn on a lanyard or clipped to the wearer’s belt. It exchanges signals with anyone nearby who is also wearing a contact tracing card, in what can be described as “a digital handshake”.

A COVID contact tracing card is not capable of tracking the wearer’s location or identity and the information is fully contained, encrypted and protected on each individual card. Its primary function is to build a memory of contacts so the wearer can be quickly alerted if they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Trial participants can register online now at https://tearawacovid19.nz/card-trial/ and pick up their cards from 172 Ngongotahā Rd (next to the Gull Service Station). Participants will need to wear their cards from Monday 9 November until the end of Sunday 15 November.

Co-designed by Te Arawa COVID Hub, the Ministry of Health and the Universities of Otago and Waikato, the trial’s purpose is to understand how a COVID contact tracing card works in a real-world scenario, whether it is compatible with New Zealand’s contact tracing systems, and if people will accept and use them.

Ngongotahā was selected as an ideal location for the trial because it’s big enough to have several marae, a school, shops and communities, and small enough that 1500 people is a significant percentage of the population.

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