New Zealand pilots NFC tags for COVID-19 tracking

The New Zealand Ministry of Health has started trying out near field communication tags as part of its COVID-19 track and trace programme. 


The NFC tags are used with the government’s NZ COVID Tracer app. Placed near existing QR code posters, it will detect a user’s NFC-supported smartphone and open their contact tracing app to automatically record their presence.

According to a media release, digital entries via NFC tag have the same privacy protections as scanning and using Bluetooth tracing via the NZ COVID Tracer. Users have control over their data but will be asked to share information when they test positive for COVID-19. 

The tap-in tags are now placed in public spaces around the Kelburn, Pipitea and Te Aro campuses of Victoria University of Wellington, as well as in two cafes and a fitness centre in capital Wellington. 


The New Zealand government has been seeking technologies that enhance and support its COVID-19 response, said Shayne Hunter, deputy director-general of Data and Digital at the Ministry of Health. He noted that keeping a digital log of visited places helps with the rapid contract tracing when a COVID-19 case is detected.

“We already have a private, easy way to do that with the NZ COVID Tracer app, so we’ll be looking to see in this trial if NFC tags can make the app even easier to use,” the Ministry of Health official added.

The NFC tag trial, according to Victoria University of Wellington, will inform decisions about a potential rollout nationwide. The technology, however, will not replace QR codes; people whose phones do not support NFC can still record their presence in various establishments by scanning QR codes. 


The Ministry of Health launched its COVID-19 tracing app in May last year. Until recently, its users automatically record their visits by scanning QR codes on posters at participating businesses and public establishments. The app also supports Bluetooth tracing to quickly notify people when someone nearby tests positive for COVID-19. To date, there are more than three million app users with over two million enabling Bluetooth tracing.

In other news, New Zealand is also piloting a consumer app where citizens can verify their COVID-19 vaccination status. Called My COVID Record, the app is connected with the government’s travel health pass programme. The government targets to introduce the app by yearend.

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