Questions and answers on NZ COVID Tracer

Answers to common queries about the NZ COVID Tracer mobile app.

Last updated: 29 September 2020

Note for iPhone users: If you have started getting an error message when you scan a QR code, either log out and back in to the app or try restarting your phone. If that doesn't work, call us on 0800 800 606 or send an email to [email protected]

On this page:


Using the app

How do I update the app?

If your phone is set to automatic updates, NZ COVID tracer will update automatically within a few days of an update being released.

You can also manually update NZ COVID Tracer:

  • For iPhone users, open the App Store and tap ‘Today’ at the bottom of the screen. Then tap your profile icon to bring up your Account. Scroll down until you see NZ COVID Tracer and then tap ‘Update’.
  • For Android users, open the Play Store and tap on the three horizonal lines at the top-left of the screen to open the sidebar. Open ‘My apps & games’ and select the ‘Updates’ tab. Then scroll down until you see NZ COVID Tracer and tap ‘Update’.

Why do I sometimes need to log back into the app?

All NZ COVID Tracer users need to ‘refresh’ their login at least once every 30 days for data security reasons. If you’ve enabled your phone’s password manager, your password will be saved so you don’t have to remember it every time you’re asked to log in.

Please note you can open the ‘Record a visit’ screen directly from the login page. This allows you to scan QR codes and create manual diary entries without logging into the app. This can be useful if you haven’t saved your password and don’t have it to hand. However, you won’t be able to view or edit your digital diary until you log back into the app with your password.

Does the NZ COVID Tracer app use mobile/wireless data?

Yes, a small amount of data is used when you register your contact information, when your phone checks for contact alerts, and when anonymised analytic information is sent to the Ministry for reporting purposes.

However, your phone doesn’t need to be connected when you scan QR codes or when you add manual entries to your digital diary.

If you are concerned about data usage, you may want to wait until you are connected to Wi-Fi before you download the app. Once you’ve downloaded the app, the ongoing data usage is minimal.

For further information about anonymised analytics, see the Privacy Impact Assessment on the Privacy and security page.

Why has my phone stopped being able to scan QR codes?

If your phone has stopped being able to scan the official QR codes, it's likely you don't have the latest version of NZ COVID Tracer installed on your phone. Please follow the instructions set out above on how to manually update NZ COVID Tracer.

Please do not uninstall and reinstall NZ COVID Tracer as this will delete your digital diary.

Which QR codes do I scan?

NZ COVID Tracer is designed to work with the official Ministry of Health QR codes only. The app will not recognise other QR codes.

The official QR code posters:

  • display the Ministry of Health logo
  • include the text 'SCAN HERE TO SIGN-IN WITH THE NZ COVID TRACER APP’ above the QR code
  • include the text ‘Sign-in. Stop the virus.’ below the QR code area
  • do not display any website URLs or direct you to a website when scanned.

QR code sign-in poster with the COVID-19 yellow stripes.

Can I record visits to locations that don’t have a QR code?

All businesses and services, unless exempt, must display the official NZ COVID Tracer QR code at each business location. If you’re concerned that a business does not appear to have a QR code on display, you can report the breach through the COVID-19 compliance centre.

For other locations such as your visits to friends and whānau, you can still keep track by adding a manual entry to your digital diary.

Read more about QR code and contact tracing requirements for businesses at business.govt.nz. To report a breach, visit the COVID-19 compliance centre.

Why should I save my NHI number in the app?

If you need to visit a COVID-19 testing station, it's helpful if you have your National Health Index (NHI) number with you, as this can help speed up the process. An NHI number is a unique identifier that is assigned to every person who uses health and disability support services in New Zealand.

What should I do if I receive a contact alert?

Receiving a contact alert does not necessarily mean you have been exposed to COVID-19.

The contact alert means you have used NZ COVID Tracer to check into a location at around the same time as a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19, and that contact tracers consider there may have been a risk of exposure. You may not have come into close contact with that person, or if you did, it may not have been for long enough to present a significant risk of exposure.

A contact alert is a simple way of making you aware that there is a risk of exposure. However, you might not have come into close contact with the person, and if you did, it might not have been for long enough to present a significant risk of exposure.

You are not required to start self-isolating after you receive a contact alert. However, if you feel unwell or start to develop COVID-19 symptoms, you should immediately contact Healthline on 0800 358 5453.

Contact tracers will get in touch with you directly if you are identified through the contact tracing process as having a higher risk of exposure to COVID-19, for example if you were seated in close proximity to the confirmed case.

Find out about COVID-19 symptoms

Information on how to contact Healthline if you are deaf or hard of hearing can be found at COVID-19: Information and advice for the deaf community.

Can contact alerts be sent for manual diary entries?

Contact alerts can be sent only in relation to locations that have a QR Code. However, if you are found to have COVID-19 or are identified as a close contact, the manual diary entries in your phone can help contact tracers quickly identify who else may have been potentially exposed to the virus.

When will Bluetooth be available?

The Ministry has released functionality for NZ COVID Tracer incrementally based on what will be most effective in supporting contact tracing. QR codes have been used because they provide accurate and reliable location information, which is valuable for contact tracing.

We are continuing to consider how Bluetooth tracing technology such as the Apple/Google exposure notification framework can be incorporated within the app to best support contact tracing.

Do I have to use the app?

NZ COVID Tracer is entirely voluntary, but using it can help protect your friends, whānau and community by enabling faster contact tracing.

What’s important is to keep a record of where you’ve been and people you’ve seen in case a contact tracer needs to get in touch. You may want to download and print the NZ COVID Tracer booklet to help you keep a written record. If you use the booklet, you are still encouraged to sign the contact tracing register when you visit places like shops.

You can also make sure our contact tracers have your current contact information by registering your details through the web app at tracing.covid19.govt.nz.

Can I sign in my children with the app?

You only need to sign into a location once, even if you have your children with you or someone else under your care.

If we need to get in touch for contact tracing, we will ask about your family household and if anyone was with you at the places you have visited.

Does the app replace manual contact tracing?

Contact tracing in New Zealand is an intensive and robust process that involves personal one-to-one interviews followed up by a team of individuals to ensure that others who have been in close contact are isolated and tested.

Technologies like NZ COVID Tracer are not intended to replace the existing process, but help make contact tracing go faster and provide a mechanism to alert people more quickly if they are potentially exposed to COVID-19. The more New Zealanders who download and use NZ COVID Tracer, the more effective it will be.


Privacy and security

How is my privacy and data security protected? 

Ensuring that NZ COVID Tracer is designed in a way that protects the privacy of New Zealanders has been a key priority throughout the development of the app. NZ COVID Tracer has also been through independent security testing.

See Privacy and security for further information.

Why do I need a long/complex password?

To ensure NZ COVID Tracer is secure, the Ministry of Health has followed the password standards set out in the New Zealand Information Security Manual, which provides guidance on information assurance and information systems security. 

Please note NZ COVID Tracer works with your phone’s password manager, which means once you’ve set up your password you won’t have to remember it the next time you log in.

Can I change my email address after I register? 

In the current version of NZ COVID Tracer, it is not possible to change your email address after registering the app. 

Future updates to NZ COVID Tracer may include the ability to update your email address. In the interim, if you change your email address after registering the app you will need to uninstall and reinstall NZ COVID Tracer. Please note this will also delete your digital diary. 

Can two people use the same email address? 

Unfortunately, it is not possible to use the same email address with more than one copy of NZ COVID Tracer. This is a privacy and data security requirement.

How do you report scan numbers without breaching privacy?

In order to monitor the performance of the app, the Ministry uses a service (Amazon Pinpoint) to collect and analyse anonymised statistical information. It is not possible for this information to be linked to any individual or location. This means we can report the number of scans that have taken place, but we do not know the identity of who has scanned or the locations where scans have occurred.

See the Privacy Impact Assessment on the Privacy and security page for further information.

How do you know what phones to send contact alerts to?

Contact alerts work through ‘push notifications’ that are sent to all phones that have NZ COVID Tracer installed. Each notification includes information about locations and timeframes where people may have been exposed to COVID-19. If the notification matches the information stored in your digital diary, you’ll receive a contact alert. This does not involve transmitting any location information from your phone to the Ministry of Health.

Why are entries in my digital diary now stored for 60 days?

Each entry in your digital diary is stored securely on your phone for 60 days before it is deleted. This has been extended from 31 days based on advice from contact tracers that a longer retention period will improve their ability to establish epidemiological links between people who have COVID-19.

The change to this retention period does not in any way affect the security of your data. The Ministry cannot access your digital diary unless you choose to share it with us after a request from a contact tracer.


Businesses and organisations

Where do I get the official QR code posters?

See QR codes to find out how to get your official QR code posters. 

Do I have to display the official QR code poster? 

All businesses and services (unless exempt) are required to display the official NZ COVID Tracer QR code posters in a prominent place at or near the main entrances to each of their premises.

Information about contact tracing for businesses, including QR code requirements, can be found on the business.govt.nz website.

See QR codes for information on where and how to display your QR code posters. 

Will a contact alert identify my business?

Contact alerts to NZ COVID Tracer users will not specify which of the locations recorded in their digital diary is the location where they may have been exposed to COVID-19.

Contact tracers will independently contact you to identify whether a contact tracing register is available and obtain any other relevant information. For example, this may include information about the staff or other people who may have been at the premises during the relevant timeframe.


Accessibility

What are the hardware/system requirements?

NZ COVID Tracer is compatible with around 95 percent of mobile operating systems and devices. In the current release of NZ COVID Tracer, Android devices need to have Android 6.0 or later while Apple devices need iOS 11 or later. 

If you have an older operating system, you may be able to update it to a more recent version. For information on how to update your phone’s operating system, please refer to the guidance for Android users or Apple users as applicable.

We intend to include support for older devices and systems in a future update to NZ COVID Tracer. In the interim, if you don’t have a compatible mobile device or operating system, it’s a good idea to keep a manual record of the people you’ve seen and the places you’ve been in case it is needed for contact tracing.

You can also make sure we have your current contact information by registering your details through the web app at tracing.covid19.govt.nz.

How does the app support accessibility?

We want to make sure NZ COVID Tracer can be used by as many New Zealanders as possible. We have followed the Government’s Web Accessibility Standards as closely as possible in the development of the app.

NZ COVID Tracer has been designed to make use of assistive technology features on smartphones where possible, including VoiceOver on iOS and TalkBack on Android.

To improve accessibility for people who are blind or have low vision, the latest release of the app includes haptic feedback for supported devices that confirms when you have scanned one of the official QR codes. 

We know this doesn’t ‘solve’ accessibility for NZ COVID Tracer, and we will continue working to identify further accessibility improvements for subsequent releases.

We are also looking to include support for languages other than English in a future release.

It is important to note that NZ COVID Tracer is intended to support rather than replace the existing contact tracing processes led by our Public Health Units and the National Close Contact Service. What’s important is that New Zealanders keep a record of where they’ve been and who they’ve seen in case a contact tracer needs to get in touch.

What languages are supported?

NZ COVID Tracer is currently available in English only. We intend to include support for te reo Māori, Chinese and Pacific languages in a future update.


App usage information

How much are people using the app?

The following document provides information on app registrations, QR codes, scans and manual diary entries.


Further questions and feedback 

If the answer to your question isn’t on this page, or the other pages in this section, you can contact the NZ COVID Tracer app team.

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