The Art of Contact Tracing for the New Workplace


By Harsimran Julka 

Nations in the grip of the current pandemic have a lot to learn from New Zealand.

The NZ government has tried to learn the art of contact tracing during lockdown which reduced its cases to less than 50 in the country.

All businesses, temples, churches, gyms, schools have a contact tracing register now.

Going to a gym? You are not allowed entry – unless you enter your name and contact number in a register.

This level of strictness made the island nation keep its numbers low, which reduced to zero at one point before increasing back to 20s (all in quarantine in government sponsored hotels).

But the pandemic has had its share of covidiots. A man housed in a quarantine hotel went for a stroll to a supermarket for shopping. The whole supermarket and surrounding buildings near the hotel had to be closed as a result.

Even one case can lead to a complete failure, the government understood – especially at a time when NZ General Elections are two months away.

Social Distancing & Contact Tracing Rules

It was interesting to witness social distancing rules at business places, once the lockdown lifted.

No businesses could allow more than a certain number of people and customers had to wait outside in a queue till others had exited a store. After all, a supermarket or a grocery store can only allow a certain number of people to maintain healthy social distancing.

Some takeaways and pizza chains allowed only one customer at a time and seats in restaurants were kept mandatorily empty to allow healthy social distancing.

All vendors and suppliers had to mandatorily sign in registers when entering a business place to deliver goods.

The government launched a contact tracing app but nothing works better than the good old notebook registers with a pen, a sanitizer and a few tissues kept beside – to clean the pen once you have signed.

Bungle up a bit and a town, city or country can easily give up its lead in the battle of virus versus the humans in circa 2020.

As per NZ government rules: “Contact tracing involves a phone call from the Health Ministry providing you with advice on self-isolation and checking on your wellbeing. After this, your details may be passed onto a Healthline service who will make follow up calls during your isolation period.”

Breaking of the isolation rules could attract a fine.

Just across the Tasman, a laxity by a few security guards in Australia who allowed themselves to have sex with bored guests quarantining at a Melbourne hotel is said to be one of the reasons for a second outbreak in the region.

In New Zealand however things are surreal. After two months of paranoia, people are out on streets without masks and gloves. Traffic jams suddenly feel healthy from deserted streets and closed malls and shops.

As lockdowns open around the world, newer ways of conducting business will evolve which could last 24-36 months.

This includes new ways of shopping, making payments, offering customer service and transportation. The new modes of business would include social distancing, digital payments, contactless delivery, and a focus on digital governance and education.

The omnipresent mask, gloves and sanitiser culture is likely to stay in societies for now. And the human genome will evolve and become immune to the new virus over generations, as it has done for its survival and existence on the planet.