Francesca Rudkin: Covid is still rampant overseas - why aren't more of us using the tracer app?

Author
Francesca Rudkin,
Publish Date
Sun, 2 May 2021, 10:16AM
(Photo / NZ Herald)

Francesca Rudkin: Covid is still rampant overseas - why aren't more of us using the tracer app?

Author
Francesca Rudkin,
Publish Date
Sun, 2 May 2021, 10:16AM

I feel for Uppkar Kashyap, one of the Kiwis stuck in India trying to get home to his young family in New Zealand.

But this is the world we live in. When you make a decision to travel, you risk the rules changing when you’re overseas and you find yourself stranded. Initially flights were suspended from India by the Government for two weeks and now, while Mr Kashyap, a New Zealand citizen, can return to New Zealand, there are no commercial flights to get him home.

We’re having the same conversation we had when we first began closing our borders, and when the MIQ voucher system was brought into play, and at Christmas when everyone wanted to come home to enjoy our glorious summer.

In the early stages of Covid repatriation flights were available and there were border exceptions, but for over 12 months New Zealanders wanting to return home have had to be patient. It hasn’t been easy; it’s been inconvenient and often unfair. That’s how it goes when your border is the first line of defence.

I have great sympathy for Mr Kashyap and his family. He’s at the mercy of commercial flights and unless flights to New Zealand from India via stop over ports are postponed on a more permanent basis, I don’t see the government stepping in to help.

It’s a reminder of how fragile the world remains.

Since April 19, when Kiwis and Australians began crossing the ditch quarantine free, we’ve seen how easy it is for slip ups to happen. It’s the right time to give the Trans-Tasman bubble a whirl but I’m not sure we can rely on trust if things go wrong. If travellers are required to self-isolate for five days until a negative Covid test is received there need to be checks to make sure it’s happening.

Most travellers are aware the risk is on them; and if something goes wrong, they will likely have to adjust their plans to keep us all safe. It’s why many are waiting to see how the system works, or until they receive the vaccination, before jumping on a plane.

Just overnight Ministry of Health has said all direct flights from Western Australia to New Zealand should be immediately paused after a worker at a Perth managed isolation facility tested positive for Covid-19. The trans-Tasman Bubble will only work if we move quickly when issues arise.

But I’m not so sure that people will play their part by doing the right thing.

We’ve seen several passengers take advantage of the trans-Tasman Bubble to return to New Zealand from other parts of the globe, and when there’s been a breach contact tracing is still important.

So the NZ Covid Tracer App is really important. If you have an MIQ facility in your town I think you’re probably more likely to use the NZ Covid Tracer App, but for regions yet to experience a Covid case there’s little historical incentive to record your movements.

These school holidays we headed to Hawkes Bay for family time. Hawkes Bay has it all; amazing food and wine, glorious beaches to walk along, cycle ways and galleries. We marvelled at the autumnal landscapes, deserted waterfalls, and my daughter and I enjoyed our first proper wander through Napier’s beautiful art deco centre.

In the four and a half days we were in the Hawkes Bay I saw one other person use the Covid Tracer app.

We were out and about a bit. I stood in the centre of Napier and watched for quite a while; no one even looked for the QR code. Not even the two police officers I followed into Tank. I know there will be times when it’s impossible to stop and use the app, such as being in a hot pursuit, but getting lunch was surely an opportunity for good role modelling.

This is just an observation and I’m not having a go at Hawkes Bay – I’m sure it’s the same all over the country.

But this complacency could be our biggest issue. An increasing number of passengers will be arriving quarantine-free into New Zealand in the coming months, and then flying all over the country to see family and friends.

I hope we iron out the wrinkles at the border, but it’s our contract tracing system that keeps us out of lockdowns. Let’s not give up on it just yet.