Friday, November 10, 2023

So gone I forgot

At the end of August, New Zealand’s “Covid Tracer App” was officially dropped from Apple’s and Google’s app stores. Apps aren’t automatically deleted from devices, of course, but because they’re no longer being updated, it’ll eventually be impossible to open the App, mainly because of updates to the devices’ operating systems that will make the apps inoperable. That’s not unusual of course, but the fact the date came and went and I completely forgot about it shows how much things have changed.

I remember when it was announced that the App was being discontinued, and I probably thought I should do a blog post about it at the time. I say “probably” because everything about that slipped my mind—at some point. I remember noticing when they said they’d turned off location notifications, something that was mostly (or perhaps entirely?) related to Bluetooth tracing, a feature that allowed the system to automatically send out alerts to anyone who was in close proximity to someone who’d tested positive for Covid, something that was possible because they both had Bluetooth tracing turned on. When I read about that, I realised I’d already forgotten that was a thing at one time.

All up, there were 3,666,310 installations of the App, and 1,016,326 posters were created. The posters contained a QR code that could be scanned with the App so people could “check in” at a location. I made a poster for my house because, at the time, I was planning on having work done. Various lockdowns/restrictions scuppered those plans, which I honestly now think was for the best. Still, I was prepared at a time when it mattered.

All of this came up this past Monday when I noticed the App on my phone and realised I’d forgotten all about it. I tapped it, and the screen above was the message I got. I took a screenshot of that, and also the statistics page at right. I have NO idea when I stopped using the App, but I know that use of the App began to decline after the last Covid lockdown ended at the waning days of 2021. The requirement that businesses and other public places display the QR code posters ended on March 25, 2022, and from that point onward the App was kind of pointless—apart from the Bluetooth tracing, maybe, but by then people were already beginning to delete the App from their phones. I didn’t delete the App from my phone after March 2022 mostly in case things got bad again. Then, as usual, I forgot all about it.

The last Covid requirements ended on August 14, 2023. At the time, I said about the end of restrictions, “we’ve all moved on, and the Government is really just catching up.”
And yet, it didn’t occur to me to delete the App.
As has happened in most places, Covid has now become an ongoing, though far less deadly, public health problem. In fact, we currently have a “noticeable increase” in Covid cases across New Zealand. However, case numbers are about a third lower than around Christmas last year, and modellers don’t think a “wave” is coming—though an important caveat to that is the fact that many people aren’t even testing for Covid when they get sick, let along reporting positive results. So, how can we knew sure what’s actually going on out in the community?

I noticed in the run-up to the recent General Election how many people’s memories appeared to have been dulled by the passage of time, and that, just like sports fans after literally every match ever, they were full of certainty that the government had made the wrong calls when fighting Covid. Whatever. Those people would never believe that estimates are that tens of thousands of New Zealanders are alive who wouldn’t be if the government hadn’t acted as it did, no, these after-the-fact experts are sure none of it was really necessary—“it’s basically just a bad cold!” they declare based on their extensive medical knowledge and training. Also, the loony conspiracy theories of a year or two ago are now often talked about as not loony at all.

Against that backdrop—and, ya know, daily life—I guess it’s not even remotely a surprise that I’d forgotten all about the Covid Tracer App. However, I do remember when it was a part of my everyday life, when it was a small way the vast majority of us were trying to do our part to keep everyone safe.

Times have changed, in so very many ways. I just wish more of them were positive.

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