QR code scan rates have again nearly doubled with New Zealand's latest scare - and there are suggestions that roving app advocates might help keep people signing in.
The latest Ministry of Health data shows daily scans using the NZ Covid Tracer app surged from 731,919 over 24 hours from 1pm on Sunday to 1,276,874 the following day, after the new community cases had been announced.
More people also switched on Bluetooth tracing, with the function being active on 1,118,638 devices as at Monday, compared with 916,562 the day before.
The bump in scan numbers was similar to that seen during January's Northland scare, when the daily tally shot up from 520,400 to more than a million within a few days.
Data expert Dr Andrew Chen said that, with the presence of new variants that spread faster and more easily, the speed of our response was more important than ever.
"Digital contact tracing through the NZ Covid Tracer App helps our contact tracing effort act faster, which could make the difference between an outbreak and containing the spread," he said.
"As we saw in the Northland case, having access to more information about where people have been can also give public health officials more confidence about the level of risk and ensure that the right people are getting tested."
Chen, a research fellow with Koi Tū: The Centre for Informed Futures at the University of Auckland, also noted Bluetooth Tracing had now pushed past the million mark.
"Bluetooth Tracing reaching one million users is in some ways an artificially significant number because humans like round numbers, but the recent surge of people adding their devices to the system is encouraging," he said.
"I think we need at least two million people using Bluetooth Tracing to have good confidence that it can help with suppressing any future outbreaks."
With 1.1 million participating, he said we were only about 55 per cent of the way to that goal.
"One of the nice things about the Bluetooth Tracing system is that once it's on, most people keep it on and so we don't see that number dropping as much as the pressure of community cases fades away."
Asked how the Government could keep the momentum rolling, Chen saw an opportunity for the ministry to turn the current surge of activity into longer-term habits.
"There are some quick changes to the app that could be introduced, like giving positive reinforcement for scanning QR codes, that could make a difference for some users," he said.
"Otherwise, if there are no changes, then I would expect the QR code scan activity to drop again once alert levels go back down although, hopefully, the Bluetooth Tracing number will stay relatively stable."
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told reporters he expected to see the same drop-off.
He remained hesitant about making scanning compulsory, given the potential compliance costs that would be passed on, particularly to small businesses.
"But we will certainly be looking at how we can encourage greater uptake - and I'm not ruling anything out at this point."
The Government was looking at approaches from around the world, including "roving groups of people" walking around to encourage uptake, he said.
"And that eases some of the pressure on businesses to have to do that for themselves."
He said some larger businesses, like supermarkets, were already well placed to have people at the door.
Chen agreed that "influencer campaigning" was a good idea generally to help reach different audiences.
"I think they do need to invest a lot more in digital inclusion, though, to ensure that everyone who wants to participate in digital contact tracing can do so."
How to turn on Bluetooth tracing
Bluetooth tracing is disabled by default. However, the first time you open NZ Covid Tracer after installing the app or updating it to version 3.0.0 or later, you'll be prompted to enable Bluetooth tracing.
You can also turn on Bluetooth tracing or check whether it is already on by completing the following steps:
• Open the app (v.3.0.0 and later) and tap on "Dashboard" if it isn't already open.
• If Bluetooth tracing is enabled, the "Dashboard" will state that "Bluetooth tracing is on". Otherwise, it will state that "Bluetooth tracing is off".
• Tap on the "Bluetooth tracing is off" tile to bring up the option to "Turn it on".