Flaws in Government's contact tracing app beginning to surface, just hours after release

Source: 1News

The Government's Covid-19 app was launched just this morning but flaws in the technology have already begun surfacing.

The app works by scanning QR codes on official NZ Covid Tracer posters and aims to assist the Ministry of Health in its contact tracing work with the virus.

Over 92,000 people have already signed up to the app on the first day of its release. 

But some companies had already implemented digital contact tracing prior to the Government's app release, which means many Kiwis had already begun using apps like Rippl to scan QR codes.

Dr Ashley Bloomfield has today admitted there were "a few wrinkles" with the roll out of the app, particularly with Android phones. 

"There have, I understand, been a few wrinkles with the downloads and running the app this morning - largely, I think, on some Android phones. Those are all being looked at. If you have any issues let us know," said Dr Bloomfield. 

He said the first update or ironing out of any bugs in the app will be released this afternoon. 

Dr Bloomfield also explained that the app does not replace "but rather complements" other actions businesses are taking to record who has been on the premise. Though, for some, this idea is proving quite convoluted. 

Auckland bar and restaurant owner Andrew Roberts started using another system a couple of weeks ago and says the Government's app is just something extra on top of all of the other processes that are already in place. 

Legally, Mr Roberts has to provide a QR system onsite for his customers at The Longroom. Now with the Government's contact tracing app some of his customers are having to sign in multiple times and he's questioning its efficiency. 

"Instead of QR coding in once you’ve got to technically QR code in twice," says Mr Roberts.

"We find that people get stuck at the door waiting to do the code and if there's three or four people then there is a slight delay. But if they're’ having to do two apps to come in then it's going to go on." 

He says the only way he sees the Government's app working is for personal use, and doesn't think his business will continue using it in its current state. 

"We were just a little bit disappointed with the detail its gone into because it’s an extra app on top of the processes we’ve already got to do.

"We'd love to see the updates happen so we can get nationwide tracing through one source." 

Wellingtonian Thomas Morgan is an Android user and hasn't been able to download the app today because his version of Android is too old.  

The Ministry of Health had already said future updates would include support for older devices and systems.

But he says he doesn't know why the Government would roll something out that didn't work for everyone. He believes the Government was under pressure to get it launched. He says many will be in the same boat as him. 

"It sounds like they were under the pressure of having to launch it too early and maybe that is the case."

Mr Morgan says he doesn't know why the Government doesn't just use Rippl until it gets its own app sorted. 

"The Rippl app seems to be fine in my experience. It's being used by Wellington and Dunedin councils so I thought the Government would pick up that app or just modify it a bit, easy. It’s already established. That being said, I don’t know if there are any differences between the two." 

Dr Bloomfield said he himself has downloaded the Rippl app, and the Government is working "closely" with such providers to see how the apps can communicate in the future. 

The Ministry of Health said this morning that NZ Covid Tracer does not remove the requirement under the Alert Level 2 order for businesses to keep appropriate contact tracing records.

However, it said the more of its QR code posters there are the more Kiwis will be able to keep track of where they’ve been with the app.