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End of the line for the COVID card

Paul Brislen, Editor. 03 March 2021, 1:41 pm

The government has all but called it quits on the "COVID Card" project, claiming the trial demonstrates a lack of capability.

The card, effectively a Bluetooth-enabled ID card that would be worn around the neck, was heavily promoted by Sam Morgan, founder of TradeMe, in the early stages of the pandemic crisis a year ago, but the expected $100 million price tag coupled with concerns around privacy and whether the population would be happy to wear such a tracking device caused many to doubt its potential. Morgan eventually called it quits on the project, blaming low levels of interest from the ministry personnel.

The government has trialled the card in Rotorua, but found the card didn't deliver on the promise.

"It wasn't hugely successful. It did highlight some difficulties with the technology itself, with the card perhaps not picking up all the content it needed to pick up," says COVID response minister Chris Hipkins on Radio New Zealand this morning.

He suggests the utility of the Card has largely been superseded by the addition of Bluetooth capability in the COVID tracer app which is being used to alert close contacts that they have been exposed to someone who has subsequently tested positive for COVID-19.

Other countries have adopted similar cards on the basis that for some people a smartphone simply isn't an option. Young children or the elderly may not be able to manage a smartphone but can wear an ID card readily enough.

However, opposition to a "government issued ID card that tracks every movement" suggests a less than warm reception for the idea, and it is now unlikely to proceed.



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