Frequently Asked Questions
Is this really necessary now?
In 2020, New Zealand’s initial Covid-19 response was effective. The potential for one or more very large outbreaks over the following two years was predicted, even before the Delta variant surfaced.
The recent Delta outbreak in Auckland highlights how hard it is to avoid border breaches, Covid-19 clusters, and a rapid spread of the virus. There were so many locations of interest that public contact tracing units struggled to keep up and people were urgently recruited to meet demand.
A real challenge is that most of the time – you don’t need remote contact tracers at all, but when you need them – you really need them! How do you resource this long term?
This seems to be a similar problem to other rare events like fire. On the Northland coast at Whananaki there is a Voluntary Rural Fire Force – they have a building, a fire truck and a community of volunteers that come together to train in case they have an incident. They do not want to wait 40 minutes for the professionals from Whangarei to get to the coast if the school is burning down. And they do not want to wait until the school has started burning before learning how to use the firetruck!
So long term our group thinks a volunteer network of contact tracers in the community could be built to support our local public health units and contracted providers if it were ever needed at scale.
Why self-employed community health professionals?
In the event of a localized Covid-19 outbreak and lockdown, professionals such as occupational therapists, dentists, and physiotherapists are unable to work in-person. While they may be able to continue with telehealth, they typically have an increased capacity.
These professionals are embedded in the community that is affected by the virus. There is a level of trust in these professionals and they have local knowledge and relationships in the community.
Many of these providers are self-employed contractors. They are used to working in flexible ways and can be quick to “deploy”.
I am not a health professional - can I join the Contact Tracing Reserves?
Yes. We would love to work with people who have strong connections and are trusted in their community. You will need the skills described below.
What equipment and other skills do I need?
You will need to be proficient with computers and using cloud applications. Any experience using Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Salesforce will give you a head start. But if you are able to navigate Trademe and Facebook, then there is no reason why you cannot learn how to use the required tools with time and training.
A good internet connection is important, as is a private space to work. A wireless head set is very helpful - or a wired version that can plug into your computer and your mobile phone.
Will I be paid?
Members of the Contact Tracing Reserves are volunteers. If you can volunteer your time to train, we hope you will be able to be part of a paid work force should you be needed. Employers of contact tracers include public health units and provider companies contacted to the Ministry of Health. We are building relationships with these organisations.
In the meantime - we hope that you see that this is a grass-roots community initiative primarily designed to help stop the spread of Covid-19 in your community.
Is there anything else in it for me?
The skills you need to be an effective contact tracer - like empathy, investigative know-how, people skills, the ability to build trust over the phone, appreciation of privacy, and local knowledge of support services and community champions – are similar to the skills that many community health professionals will have already have, or may be keen to develop further.
You are initially encouraged to complete a free Case Investigation training program from the Ministry of Health.
If you move on to train with your PHU or a contracted provider we ask them to provide evidence of your learning for your CPD records.
As we become established we hope to connect you to regular webinars, local meetups, and practical training in topics such as Psychological First Aid, Motivational Interviewing, Practical Privacy, and Equity in the Health System. We would provide certificates as evidence for your professional development portfolio. We intend for these skills to be useful for your everyday practice. And we also hope to provide real simulation training using a dummy version of the National Contact Training System - the software used during an outbreak.
We also hope by sharing your profile with others in the Contact Tracing Reserves, you will help build relationships with different health professionals, and across the wider social services in your area.
Are my new contact tracing skills transferable?
You may be trained a bit differently depending on where you do your basic training. However, the core computer system is used by all the different PHU's and contracted providers in the country. So if you train with one organisation - but are not needed by them in an outbreak - you will be able to take your skills elsewhere if another organisation is in need.
I don't really have time at the moment - can I still join to see what it is all about?
Yes - there is no obligation to do a certain amount of basic training or to be "deployed" in the event of a Covid-19 emergency. But we do ask that you commit to reading this website in full, and doing the pre-training before applying.
We will ask you to create an online profile which includes your availability for training or "deployment" so that we can know what your situation is and communicate with you easily. You have control of your profile, and you can leave the Contact Tracing Reserves at any time.
We encourage you to get involved.
How does the Contact Tracing Reserves make money?
We don't. We are not a formal organisation and have no financial connections to anyone or any other organisation.
Our core team volunteers their time, skills or other resources they have access to - e.g. website building skills, membership software and communications tools.
We primarily exist to be part of the solution to a really hard problem - how do we prepare a surge contact tracing workforce that can contribute to the massive capacity, and capability, that is needed to keep ahead of a Delta outbreak.
Are you looking for partners?
Yes. We would particularly like to build relationships with PHUs and contracted providers (to MOH) who currently perform contact tracing work.
We are also would like to build relationships with community groups that are interested in being part of the contact tracing response.