COVID-19 UPDATE, 3rd April 2020

NIHI’s response to COVID-19

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 NIHI has been working to develop proposals and innovative tools to support essential services and the Government wherever possible. We’ve put together a short list of the projects we have been working on in the last few weeks.


A deeper understanding

Associate Professor Natalie Walker and Professor Chris Bullen have been working with Associate Professor Judith McCool from the School of Population Health in collaboration with Horizon Research on a series of national online surveys.

The surveys aim to measure people’s knowledge of COVID-19 symptoms, strategies for minimising transmission and the intention to adhere to government advice. The results are being forwarded to the Ministry of Health to shape their communications and help them provide relevant content to New Zealanders. The first survey was completed a week before New Zealand’s move to the Alert System and we hope to be able to provide a link to the survey’s findings later.


Staying up-to-date with accurate information

Manoj Alwis has developed a website that aggregates COVID-19 information from other websites to enable ready access to accurate, up-to-date information about the pandemic in NZ and overseas. Follow the latest developments in real time here.


Innovation at the centre

Professor Chris Bullen, Associate Professor Natalie Walker, Pragya Nandan and PhD student Jinsong Chen have been working with other groups at the University of Auckland on a range of proposals for innovative tools, including wearables to change viral transmission risk behaviours.

Together with local start-up Ark Health Discovery they have been working on their social media-based COVID-19 chatbot as well as mobile games for use with other social media platforms. These innovative proposals aim to enable access to accurate information and support the wellbeing of people in self-isolation or quarantine in NZ and China.

In addition, several NIHI staff and collaborators are working on digital solutions, including chatbots and apps, to remind people of strategies put in place to minimise transmission risk, appropriate health-seeking behaviour as well as mental health and wellbeing maintenance during the lockdown period. We are looking forward to revealing more of this work soon.


Volunteering and expert advice Professor

Chris Bullen is coordinating a team of public health medicine specialists from the School of Population Health. The specialists are volunteering their expertise to support the public health unit’s contact tracing teams while also taking calls from primary care.

He has also been appointed as a member of the Technical Advisory Group’s epidemiology sub-group, to provide advice and expert comment on matters arising from the COVID-19 response to the Ministry of Health.