While Kiwis spend the summer road-tripping and gathering in droves at festivals and shopping malls, use of the Covid Tracer app has plummeted.
Daily scan data shows some days over the festive period saw the lowest figures since August, when a new community outbreak sent Auckland back into alert level 3, leading to a surge in app use.
Use remained consistent through November, averaging 872,877 QR code scans per day and as many as nearly 1.1 million on some days. This decreased through December, with an average of 522,200 daily scans over the month, dropping sharply during the festive season.
QR scans between 1pm on Christmas Day and 1pm on Boxing Day were the lowest since August 11 – the day news broke of new community transmission – with just 170,309 scans.
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While low app use on could be expected on Christmas Day with shops and supermarkets closed, there were also only 307,423 QR code scans between 1pm on Boxing Day and December 27.
There has not been a single day since December 23 with more than half a million daily scans, and there were only an average of 346,500 daily scans between December 23 and January 4.
There were just 277,709 scans on January 1 – a far cry from the 2.5 million daily scans seen in early September from the app’s 2.4 million registered users.
Microbiologist Dr Siouxsie Wiles said the app was a crucial measure in slowing community transmission if the virus were to start circulating again – one that we should be using proactively to minimise an outbreak, as opposed to when an outbreak is declared.
Wiles said it was “really frustrating a year into the pandemic that people don’t get this really basic thing”, particularly given how important and easy it was to do.
If New Zealand was to see new transmission of the virus while app use is so low, an outbreak could be harder to map, and therefore “would be bigger” than if it was easier to trace, she said.
Wiles said people keep forgetting that it’s “on all of us to do our part”.
As New Zealanders are living life at alert level 1, we are all travelling and behaving in ways that would the virus to spread “quite far”, she said.
Using the app “needs to be a thing that we all just do”.
“It needs to become our way of life.”
Minister for Covid-19 Response Chris Hipkins earlier said use of the tracer app had been “woeful” over the holiday period.
On Tuesday, the Ministry of Health said it was seeing a “notable” drop-off in people using the app.
The ministry said it was especially important to use the app while on holiday, as people may not remember all the locations they have visited.