More than 1100 people in Ngongotahā have a new and vital accessory this week - a Covid-19 contact tracing card.
The cards go live today and are a key part of an on-the-ground trial of the technology and its potential enhancement of the Covid contact tracing process.
Co-designed by Te Arawa Covid Hub, the Ministry of Health and the Universities of Otago and Waikato, the trial's purpose is to understand how a Covid contact tracing card works in a real-world scenario, whether it is compatible with New Zealand's contact tracing systems, and if people will accept and use them.
Te Arawa Covid-19 Response Hub spokesman Monty Morrison said the response to the trial had been overwhelming.
"It's humbling to see so many people in our community recognise how important this trial is and who want to contribute to Aotearoa's fight against Covid-19.
"We are eager to get the trial under way and recognise that this next stage is a crucial one. We remind whānau to wear the card everywhere they go, so that we can get as many contacts as possible and help ensure the accuracy of the trial," he said.
The cards can be worn on a lanyard or clipped to the wearer's belt. It exchanges signals with anyone nearby who is also wearing a contact tracing card, in what can be described as "a digital handshake".
People involved in the trial should only take the tracing card off when at home.
People who live and/or work in Ngongotahā still have the opportunity to sign up to the trial, with registrations closing today.
Trial participants can register online at tearawacovid19.nz/card-trial/ and pick up their cards from 172 Ngongotahā Rd (next to the Gull Service Station).
Participants will need to wear their cards from Monday, November 9 until the end of Sunday, November 15.
So far, the majority of people who have signed up to the trial are women aged between 40 and 74.
A Covid contact tracing card is not capable of tracking the wearer's location or identity and the information is fully contained, encrypted and protected on each individual card.
Its primary function is to build a memory of contacts so the wearer can be quickly alerted if they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19
Ngongotahā was selected as an ideal location for the trial because it's big enough to have several marae, a school, shops and communities, and small enough that 1500 people is a significant percentage of the population.