A witless chump walks out of the Stamford Plaza hotel in central Auckland, where he's meant to be in quarantine. He takes a stroll to a nearby supermarket where he buys some toiletries and takes some selfies.
Around his neck on a lanyard is a piece of plastic like a swipecard or an ID tag that emits a Bluetooth signal operated by a tiny battery that will run down in a year's time. It contains no personal information, but can link to a cellphone number if need be.
Everyone he passes on his AWOL jaunt is wearing or carrying one of these cards too. When two of them pass within a couple of metres of one another, they register each other's presence with a 90 percent hit rate.
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Compare that with the hit rate for the mishmash of smartphone Bluetooth tracing apps currently in use, where maybe 25 percent of the population has even downloaded one.
Even with the app on the phone, it may not be activated, and even then, smartphones come in such myriad varieties and radio signal strengths that there's no guarantee they'll work anyway.
Smartphone apps are too smart for this job. There is human fallibility and infinite technological variety involved. Instead, the card dangling around everyone's neck is dumb technology. All you have to do is remember to wear it.
So, if our chump were to test positive for covid-19 – which he is about to do – everyone whose card interacted with his could be traced swiftly with a phone call.
Compare that to the current manual track and tracing system that New Zealanders are being told is operating to a 'gold standard' level at present. Perhaps that's a reference to the technology of the 1930s – when the gold standard was actually last in use.
It is certainly not a good description for a system that would be incapable of containing covid-19's spread at Alert Level 1, where contacts per day could number in the hundreds for a person who spends the day at work.
Meanwhile, back on our shopping trip, at much the same time as Chump 1 is foraging for moisturiser, a forgetful type wanders out of her office and heads for the same supermarket, also with toiletries purchases in mind. She tries to enter but, because she left her Bluetooth card on her desk, she is told she can't.
Annoying, but also no contact with the chump and no exposure to covid-19.
This recreation of the Auckland quarantine breach earlier this week need not be fantasy.
It is something that could happen using new technology that exists, has passed early field trials with flying colours, is being further tested by Defence Force specialists and could be deployed within six months in New Zealand if the results continue to impress.
Dubbed the CovidCard, it is being touted by a group of high-powered businesspeople who have already been deeply involved in the covid response. The best-known are TradeMe founder and private equity investor Sam Morgan and former Air New Zealand chief executive Rob Fyfe.
Fyfe, along with other 'friends of the government' – Helen Clark, Sir Peter Gluckman and Business New Zealand's Kirk Hope among them – has been agitating publicly in the last fortnight for a clear strategy from the government to allow border reopening.
This has been widely misinterpreted as border reopening "now", or even "soon".
Some have suggested it means ditching the elimination strategy that has allowed New Zealanders to return to normal life within our borders, but could realistically see the country cut off from the rest of the world for two to three years.
While many of us race around taking local holidays, eating out, and refurbishing shabby furnishings that became unbearable during lockdown, it's easy to ignore how big an impact that border closure will have on our economy.
But as time goes on and involuntary lockdown savings dwindle, the slog of a long recession will re-emerge. Opening the border will become a higher and higher priority.
Knowing this, the proponents of a technology-enabled border reopening argue that we are constantly improving what we know about the virus and should focus on solutions that would allow the country to maintain its virus 'elimination' status without a two-week hotel quarantine being the only path to entry.
Such a strategy will need far better tracking and tracing of covid contacts than we have right now, and much faster testing. Faster testing is starting to emerge internationally.
But few countries are like New Zealand, with the potential to maintain its elimination status. Hence the impetus to develop a technology like the CovidCard here.
Then, even imagining such tech could be developed and tested to a high enough level of confidence, a national communication and distribution campaign would still be required.
It would require revival of the extraordinary sense of common purpose that the country achieved during the weeks of hardest lockdown earlier this year and distribution by trusted sources – marae, community and church groups, employers, schools.
Most importantly, a technology capable of capturing about 90 percent of all close contacts must be in place BEFORE another covid outbreak.
If rollout took a minimum of six months, which the CovidCard advocates believe it would, then January or February 2021 is the earliest the border might start opening. And during that time, there would need to be no new outbreak.
Every week lost is a week into next year that the border remains closed.
Which is why the CovidCard innovators are becoming frustrated that while the government has made all the right noises about it, there has been little apparent movement since a full report on its potential was delivered to the Prime Minister's Office on June 5.
Yes, there is testing and general enthusiasm about its potential. But they fear the patch-protection and foot-dragging observed at the Ministry of Health throughout the covid response is now holding up a technological opportunity of potentially enormous value.
Of course, the CovidCard could be a dud.
But of the many covid-combatting ideas to be put before the government, it has the advantage of involving people already close to the response to date, is well-advanced in its development, successfully trialled, tailored to New Zealand's particular needs and, on any measure, an improvement on the contact tracking and tracing jumble that's in place today.
It deserves to get more traction, if only because if it's not the right answer, we're going to need another. That is, unless we're to stay locked in here for years or are forced to do what other countries are doing and expose themselves to covid for the sake of their economies.