Digital contact tracing (DCT) is the application of digital tools to assist with identifying and informing close contacts of a COVID-19 case. DCT is a potential solution to capacity constraints of current manual contact tracing processes. Expert opinion from contact tracing professionals rarely informs public discourse on the benefits and limitations of DCT solutions. Three focus groups were undertaken in New Zealand to understand benefits and limitations of DCT solutions from contact tracing professionals. One was with the National Investigation and Tracing Centre (NITC) and two were with Public Health Units (PHUs). Participants highlighted four key themes including: (i) equity, (ii) privacy, (iii) communication and public perception and (iv) the operational model. Participants were concerned DCT solutions could exacerbate existing health inequities due to lack of access to, or familiarity with, technology. Poor communication and public understanding of DCT were seen as a major threat to both the efficacy of DCT solutions and the wider COVID-19 response. Most importantly, end-users were cautious of the operational model for DCT data that might: (i) attempt to replace manual processes that cannot or should not be automated by technology (case investigations, follow-ups); (ii) place undue burden on citizens and (iii) increase the workload for the current system beyond its capacity, for unproven or limited benefit. To be effective, contact tracing professionals believed DCT technologies must have strong privacy safeguards, a clear and simple communication strategy, interoperability with the existing contact tracing system and a foundation of health equity.

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