As news of more virulent cases of Covid-19 overseas and in managed isolation facilities here increased, the chances of someone in the community testing positive grew, and now it’s happened:
The person, a 56-year-old woman who has recently returned from Europe, tested negative twice during her 14 days in managed isolation at the Pullman Hotel in Auckland. However, after leaving managed isolation, the woman became symptomatic in Northland and sought a test, which came back positive. . .
The woman lives with just one person, her husband, who is not symptomatic but has been tested. Four other close contacts from the couple’s travels around southern Northland have been identified, contacted and tested and their contacts are also being traced. Testing centres would be set up around Mangawhai. The woman had been travelling around southern Northland together because she had been overseas. “They were not meeting friends, just spending that time together,” said Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield.
The woman was “extremely assiduous” in using the NZ COVID Tracer app to scan QR codes, Bloomfield said. He said she also had the Bluetooth tracing function enabled and the Ministry of Health would notify others who had Bluetooth enabled and may have been in proximity for long enough to be a close contact. . .
That she has taken great care to use the tracing app makes it easy to know where she’s been and the Bluetooth tracing will alert others using it.
But what about people who don’t either don’t have Bluetooth function or aren’t assiduous about using the app?
I didn’t download the app until Auckland was locked down for the second time when I realised how hard it would be to remember where I’d been in the last fortnight.
Since downloading it I have been assiduous about using it even though some businesses don’t make it easy to see and then scan the QR code before or as soon as you enter.
But from what I’ve observed I’m in a pretty small minority and my observation is backed up by official figures:
In November, there were an average of 866,000 scans per day.
That dropped to 516,000 in December and has slipped to 465,000 per day in January so far – almost half of November levels.
Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said people needed to stay on high alert as the virus spread quickly, and cases continued to increase globally.
He asked people to take the time to scan in with the app, or record their own diary so contact tracing could take place quickly if there was another outbreak. . .
Given the need to do contact tracing quickly, why weren’t the places the woman who’s tested positive had visited made public immediately?
The Government’s delay on revealing the locations the Northland woman who has tested positive for Covid 19 has travelled is reckless and risks making a dangerous situation much worse,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.
“How can people self-isolate and get tested in a timely manner if the Government won’t tell them they’ve been somewhere they may have contracted the virus?
“People want to take personal responsibility at times like this but the Government needs to be transparent and treat them like adults.
“Hopefully the Northland woman’s assiduous use of QR scanning and having Bluetooth turned on by will give tracers a big helping hand, but the potential for the virus to have spread over the days since she tested positive is of huge concern.
“She deserves real kudos, but appallingly low use of the app by most others means tracing is going to be extremely difficult. . .
The official line is that businesses visited were being notified before they were identified.
If the woman was infectious when she visited these places other visitors and staff are at risk. Their health and that of everyone else they’ve been in contact with should come first. If they haven’t been diligent about using the app, publicising places of potential risk is the only way to alert them and that should be done without delay.
Public awareness and safety ought to take precedence over privacy concerns for the businesses.
Besides, given the time it’s taking to alert the businesses, it’s likely they would find out sooner with a public announcement than a personal call.
The sooner they find out, the safer it would be for their staff and customers, many of whom won’t have been assiduous in their use of the app.