WHO urges NZ to do more work on its contact tracing systems

The World Health Organisation is urging New Zealand to further develop its contact tracing systems, in case there’s another outbreak.

A QR app has been issued in France in order to keep track of people who are going out during the Covid-19 epidemic.

Photo: Yann Castanier / Hans Lucas / AFP

WHO head of planning for the Western Pacific region, Dr Matthew Griffith, told RNZ the country’s response to the pandemic had been exemplary.

He said there was much other countries could learn.

“This concept of the bubble is something that’s picking up, and people are quite fascinated by it,” he said.

“It’s a great example of how to communicate to the public … in terms of how people can take responsibility for limiting transmission.”

In the UK for instance, from Monday, “support bubbles” will allow up to 11 million people living alone or as single parents to combine with other households.

Dr Griffith said from the organisation’s perspective, New Zealand had avoided the type of battle between economic and public health interests that other countries had experienced.

If there was a second wave in New Zealand, he said the organisation would advise against further lockdowns, which would be too much for many people to take.

That’s where the importance of contact tracing came in.

“If we have really good systems of contact tracing … it means we don’t have to do these heavy measures again,” he said.

“So [New Zealand] still needs to be preparing contact tracing systems in case there is a surge in cases, and the public needs to maintain that individual responsibility.”

There are no new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand for the 19th straight day.

There are still no active cases.

On a larger scale, Dr Griffith compared New Zealand to South Korea and Japan – both of which are through the worst of their outbreaks but are still seeing new clusters pop up as they reopen.

“What New Zealand can learn from countries like South Korea and Japan is that … it’s not yet time to be complacent and loose,” he said.

“But a sign of clusters can actually be a good thing – because it represents how that country has gotten through the worst of community transmission, and is able to focus on specific outbreaks.”

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