NZ Covid Tracer App

In early 2020, the World Health Organisation declared the coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern and the fast-moving epidemic prompted countries around the world to take action.

The entire country went into Level 4 lockdown on 25 March 2020, and in early April RUSH began working with the Government on a tech solution that would enable New Zealanders to give contact tracers a head start in breaking the chain of transmission.


Manatū Hauora | Ministry of Health


Six weeks to MVP, ongoing optimisation



Public sector


"It’s pleasing to note the extensive use of the NZ COVID Tracer app has significantly assisted contact tracing efforts."

Ministry of Health


Ministry of Health

The project

The New Zealand Government, determined to minimise the impact of COVID-19, opted for a strategy which combined strict physical distancing, border controls, strong testing and clinical management of those infected with clear, regular public communication and a focus on contact tracing.

In a health emergency where physical distance is required and quick, effective tracing is one of the best defences against further outbreak, technology needs to play a major role and RUSH were brought in to develop and deliver a solution.



Feasibility Validation


Proof of Concept

UX Design

UI Design

Technical Validation

Native Application Development

Cloud / Systems Integration

Minimum Viable Product

Quality Assurance & Testing

Application Support


Scans of QR codes


App registrations


Alerts about potential exposure using Bluetooth tracing

Pavan Vyas and Steve Horner with Dr Ashley Bloomfield

Scan in, save lives

Early discovery of pandemic response technologies that were being prototyped in other countries revealed significant issues with usability and accuracy. The Ministry of Health and RUSH team collectively chose QR code scanning as a proven tech that people were familiar with, and RUSH built four different digital products to facilitate this initial solution.

There are two native apps (Android and Apple iOS) because the speed of the development in the initial stages required us to allow for the ability to quickly pivot, however since our first iterations Google and Apple have created a collaborative OS which has allowed us to develop one React native app with Bluetooth capabilities.

Lastly, RUSH built the QR code generator for the official NZ COVID Tracer posters which all businesses and services, unless exempt, were required to display in a prominent place.

The NZ COVID Tracer app was formally launched on 20 May 2020, to help protect New Zealanders, their whānau and the community by giving contact tracers a head start with identifying anyone who may have been exposed to COVID-19.

Screenshots of the NZ COVID Tracer app
“It was a really nervous time in the company. I remember telling the team what was happening, and saying that we’ve got a chance to work on this thing that could actually save lives. They stepped up genuinely, people went above and beyond to make this happen.”

Pavan Vyas


Former CEO, RUSH

NZ COVID Tracer app screenshots and illustrations demonstrating insight led design

Protecting privacy

Protecting user privacy was a critical component. Our QR code solution is one of the first in the world to have decentralised code which is incredibly important for giving users control of their own data. Information is securely stored on a user’s phone and routinely deleted, there is no phone transmission of data unless expressly authorised by the user, no way to use records for enforcement and no sharing of information with Government agencies that aren’t involved in contact tracing.

Bluetooth tracing

The NZ COVID Tracer app was updated in December 2020 to include the additional tool of Bluetooth tracing technology. When Bluetooth tracing is enabled, it sends out a private and secure random ID code which records how close another Bluetooth enabled phone was, and for how long. It’s like your phone is giving digital high-fives to other nearby phones. This allows users to keep track of who they’ve been near, and receive an alert if they have been near another app user who tests positive for COVID-19.

NZ COVID Tracer app screenshots

Get it on Google PlayDownload on the App Store


▪ Best Awards 2021 | Gold - Public Good, Gold - UX innovating, Silver - digital product, Bronze - UX empowering, Bronze - UX optimising

▪ GOOD Design Awards 2021 | Winner - Social Impact, GOLD Winner - Digital Design

▪ Open Source Awards 2021 | Winner - Open Source Use in Government

▪ NZ Hi-Tech Awards 2021 | Finalist - Social Impact