Coronavirus: Use of COVID Tracer app won't be compulsory for travellers from Australia, Ministry of Health clarifies

The Ministry of Health has clarified that travellers from Australia won't actually be required to use the NZ COVID Tracer app when they arrive in Aotearoa once the travel bubble commences on April 19.

A tweet from the Government's Unite Against COVID-19 account said that, among a range of requirements, people travelling to New Zealand from Australia "must" download and use the NZ COVID Tracer app while they are in the country.

When Newshub asked the Ministry of Health how this rule would be enforced, they pointed towards comments Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made during the travel bubble announcement on Tuesday. She said visitors from Australia will be asked to download the app and use it while in New Zealand - it won't be a hard and fast requirement.

"Keeping in mind that the contact details that we can access for travellers is generally very good, because people need to be contacted by their airline should anything happen to their baggage, and so that's information we can access for the purposes of contact tracing," Ardern said.

"We will be asking airlines in flight to advertise details around our contact tracing - our COVID Tracer app. But we will not be asking any traveller to do any more than we do any other New Zealander, which is use it, but without compelling people or fining people if they don't."

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said on Tuesday the Government has been working with airlines to make sure travellers know the importance of tracking their movements.

"We have to allow for the fact that not everyone travelling will have a phone that's capable of doing that, particularly some of our elderly population have been more reluctant to take up the use of the app," he said.

"But, certainly, we'll be making sure that the messages about that are there. And we've also got some systems in place to make sure that we're able to share information backwards and forwards if we're contact tracing on both sides of the Tasman."

The Ministry of Health also confirmed that people who are unable to use the NZ COVID Tracer app will be able to pick up a tracing booklet they can manually fill out at the airport.

David Seymour.
David Seymour. Photo credit: Getty Images

The ACT Party has called for scanning QR codes and having "easy" contact tracing be made compulsory in New Zealand. Leader David Seymour says this "absolutely" should be extended to visitors from Australia.

"We are granting them a privilege to enter New Zealand. It's an opportunity to put in place some requirements, and one that would be easier to find out where they've been and trace any possible outbreak would be a no-brainer I would've thought," he tells Newshub.

"Contact tracing is the number one tool against ending an outbreak. It allows the Government to trace to the ends of the chain of transmission, isolate anyone who may be infected so the rest of us can get on with business, including continued Australian travel. If the contact tracing is no good, we end up locked down for weeks."

He adds if someone was found to have failed to scan in, particularly if they were part of spreading an outbreak, "they should be punished" for it.

ACT has several immediate changes it would like to see outlined in its COVID Response Plan 2.0, one of which is a COVID Card-like technology that would detect and record close contacts. Seymour says the Government could've introduced something like this in October when they had the chance and adds they still could now.

"But unfortunately it has not taken contact tracing seriously, and that's why when we have an outbreak, we have to lock down a whole city for two weeks at a time," he says.

"Opening up a bubble with Australia was a simple and straightforward task. New South Wales achieved travel with every other Australian state back in October and added us in the mix too, but it's taken us six months to reciprocate the exact same thing."