Questions and answers on NZ COVID Tracer

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

Last updated: 9 March 2021

We are aware that NZ COVID Tracer currently crashes on the beta release of iOS 14.5. There is now a new version of the beta (beta2). Please upgrade to beta2 when it is available to you. This may take up to a few days to appear.

In the meantime use an alternative way of recording where you’ve been like taking photos, keeping notes, or using the Rippl app.

Please don’t reinstall the app – this will delete your diary and won’t fix the problem.

The latest version of NZ COVID Tracer is version 3.0.2. If you missed version 3.0.1 – please note some troubleshooting points in enabling Bluetooth.

  • Android users will see a ‘Checking exposure notifications’ message after installing the update. If the message persists, try restarting your phone and make sure Bluetooth tracing is turned on in the app dashboard. Please be patient – the message will close by itself. Don’t uninstall or reinstall the app, as this will delete your digital diary. 
  • Some iPhone users are taken to a blank settings page after installing the update. If this happens, please open your phone’s 'Settings' and find the 'Exposure Notifications' item. Turn on 'Exposure Notifications' and select New Zealand as your region.

Read more about Bluetooth tracing.

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’.

Can I transfer my digital diary from one phone to another?

You can transfer your digital diary if you migrate from one iPhone to another. Make sure you follow the steps below before you reset or factory restore your old phone.

Unfortunately this is not currently possible on Android devices. We recommend taking screenshots of your diary before upgrading to a new Android device.

Note:

  • We cannot guarantee this process will work for all phones, so we highly recommend you take screenshots of your digital diary before you start the back-up process. This will ensure you have a record of your diary if the process is unsuccessful.
  • Make sure the NZ COVID Tracer app is selected as one of the apps you want to restore on your new phone. Re-installing the app from the App Store will instead delete your data. 
  • You cannot transfer your digital diary if you have lost your phone and did not have it backed up.

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, when you enable Bluetooth tracing, and when anonymised analytic information is sent to the Ministry for reporting purposes.

However, your phone doesn’t need to be connected to use Bluetooth tracing, when you scan the 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 or update 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 you have any problems scanning the QR Codes, please email [email protected]

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 location alert?

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

The location 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 location 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 location 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 location alerts be sent for manual diary entries?

Location 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.

Can I sign in my children with the app?

You only need to scan 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.


Bluetooth tracing

Is my phone compatible?

To use Bluetooth tracing you will need iOS13.5 or later if you have an iPhone, or Android 6.0 or later if you have another phone. Android devices must also support Google Play Services and Bluetooth Low Energy to use Bluetooth tracing.

Phones with older operating systems cannot provide Bluetooth tracing because they do not have the Apple/Google Exposure Notification Framework.

Do I still need to scan the QR codes?

It’s important you continue scanning the QR codes wherever you see them, regardless of whether you also have Bluetooth tracing enabled.

QR codes allow us to create a private record of the places we’ve been, while Bluetooth tracing creates an anonymous record of the people we’ve been near. Both of these are valuable for contact tracing.

Can I use Bluetooth tracing without the app?

Bluetooth tracing will only work if you have a compatible device with the NZ COVID Tracer app installed. However, once Bluetooth tracing is enabled you do not need to leave the app open.

Will Bluetooth tracing affect my privacy?

Bluetooth tracing is entirely anonymous. No personal or identifying information is exchanged between phones, and Bluetooth tracing cannot be used to track your movements.

No one will ever see who you’ve been nearby, or when or where you were near them, even if you test positive for COVID-19.

Read more about how privacy is protected in the NZ COVID Tracer app.

Will Bluetooth tracing use my mobile data?

Bluetooth doesn’t use any mobile data because it doesn’t involve connecting to the cellphone network – your phone talks directly to other nearby phones.

However, please note you will need to be connected when you first enable Bluetooth.

Will Bluetooth tracing drain my battery?

Bluetooth tracing uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), which is designed to use considerably less power than Classic Bluetooth. As a result, the impact on phone battery life will be minimal.

If you think your battery usage is excessive, please contact our support team so we can look into the problem. You will need the following information:

  • Percentage of battery used (refer to phone settings)
  • The make and model of your phone
  • Your phone’s version of iOS or Android

Why does Bluetooth tracing on Android require location to be turned on?

On Android 10 and older, the Exposure Notification System (ENS) requires the Location setting to be active. Bluetooth tracing relies on the ENS in order to function. The ENS does not require the Location setting to be active if your phone is running Android 10 or later.

Please note that NZ COVID Tracer cannot access your GPS location or any other data about your phone’s location.

Read more about location permissions and the Exposure Notification System on the Google website.

Will Bluetooth tracing cause my phone to overheat?

Bluetooth tracing will not cause your phone to overheat because it uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), which is designed to use considerably less power than Classic Bluetooth.

However, please note that having a large number of active apps open at the same time could cause your phone to overheat by placing excessive demands on your phone’s hardware.

Will Bluetooth tracing detect all my close contacts?

The more people who use Bluetooth tracing, the more effective it will be. However, it will only detect your contacts with other nearby app users who also have Bluetooth tracing enabled. Not everyone uses the app and some app users will not have Bluetooth tracing enabled.

That’s why it’s important you continue scanning the QR codes wherever you see them. This will ensure you receive a location alert if you visit the same location at around the same time as someone who is later found to have COVID-19.

Can I receive both a Bluetooth alert and a location alert?

You may receive both a Bluetooth alert and a location alert if you were nearby a person with COVID-19 who has been using Bluetooth tracing and if you also scanned the QR code at a location visited by that person.

The information and advice contained within a Bluetooth alert takes precedence over any location alert because the risk of exposure from being nearby someone who has COVID-19 is generally higher than the risk associated with visiting the same location.


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.

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 location alerts to?

Location 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 location alert. This does not involve transmitting any location information from your phone to the Ministry of Health.

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

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

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? 

Under all alert levels, 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, and exemptions, can be found on business.govt.nz.

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

Will a location alert identify my business?

Location 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 10 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.

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?

The NZ COVID Tracer app is easy to use and there is information and guidance on how to use it published in 23 languages.

It is built with the ability to support other languages in future releases.


App usage information

How much are people using the app?

View information on app registrations, QR codes, scans and manual diary entries — NZ COVID Tracer app data.


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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