COVID-19 Tracer app scans more than triple this time last year, but concerns it's still not enough with Omicron threat

There is still a significant number of people not using the COVID-19 tracer app.
There is still a significant number of people not using the COVID-19 tracer app. Photo credit: Getty Images

There were more than 2 million scans of the COVID tracer app on Wednesday, but one expert warns many are still complacent as Omicron looms at our borders.

The number of COVID-19 tracer app QR scans has more than tripled from about this time last year, but digital technology expert Andrew Chen said there's still a significant number of people not scanning.

According to figures published on the Ministry of Health website, between midday on Tuesday to midday on Wednesday there were 2,375,703 scans. This is up from early January 2021 (when there were no COVID-19 community cases) when scans were at about 500,000. 

Dr Chen, from the University of Auckland, told RNZ while these numbers are significantly higher than last year, there are still about 1 million who aren't doing as much scanning as they should be. 

"The Delta outbreak really got a lot of people out of that complacency mode and a lot of people are doing it on a regular basis now," he said. "The catch with that is it's still not everyone." 

Dr Chen said scanning behaviours are often driven by fear.  When a woman was identified as New Zealand's first community case in months this time last year, COVID tracer app scans almost doubled in one day.

Keeping a digital diary of where you have been significantly improves the speed of contact tracing and the likelihood of containing outbreaks, Dr Chen told RNZ.

He said when it comes to COVID-19, particularly Omicron, "speed is key".

Omicron is more transmissible than the other variants and there are concerns over how the contact tracing system will cope if it enters the community.

The system struggled to keep up during the height of the Delta outbreak and director of Public Health Caroline McElnay said Omicron could be another game-changer, making the rapid tracing of contacts more vital. 

There are currently no known cases of Omicron in the community, with all of New Zealand's locally acquired cases still stemming from the Delta variant outbreak that unfolded in August.