The Australian Government’s new voluntary COVIDSafe app is an important public health initiative designed to keep the community safe from further spread of coronavirus through early notification of possible exposure.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australians are doing an extraordinary job to flatten the curve and contain the spread of the coronavirus but warned against complacency.
“The Chief Medical Officer’s advice is we need the COVIDSafe app as part of the plan to save lives and save livelihoods,”
the Prime Minister said.
“The more people who download this important public health app, the safer they and their family will be, the safer their community will be and the sooner we can safely lift restrictions and get back to business and do the things we love.”
The health initiative uses technology to automate and improve what state and territory health officials already do manually.
COVIDSafe will speed up the process of identifying people who have been in close contact with someone diagnosed with coronavirus, quickly stopping further spread of the virus in the community.
The app has received strong support from states and territories and the health sector, which recognises it is a valuable tool that will enhance the ability to respond rapidly to local outbreaks, and the confidence to know the virus is not silently spreading throughout communities.
A new determination issued by the Minister for Health under the Biosecurity Act will ensure the information provided voluntarily through the App will only be accessible for use by authorised state and territory health officials. Any other access or use will be a criminal offence.
Minister for Government Services, Stuart Robert described the App as being developed with one purpose: to stop the spread of coronavirus.
“Once installed and running, the COVIDSafe app uses Bluetooth to look for other phones that also have the app installed,”
Minister Robert said.
“To be effective, users should have the app running in the background when they are coming into contact with others. Your phone does not need to be unlocked for the app to work.”
“It then securely makes a ‘digital handshake’, which notes the date and time, distance and duration of the contact. All information collected by the app is securely encrypted and stored in the app on the user’s phone. No one, not even the user, can access it.”
“Unless and until a person is diagnosed with COVID-19, no contact information collected in the app is disclosed or able to be accessed. Then, once the person agrees and uploads the data, only the relevant state or territory public health officials will have access to information.
“The only information they are allowed to access is that of close contacts – when a person has come within approximately 1.5 metres of another app user for 15 minutes or more – in their jurisdiction,” Minister Robert said.
Welcoming the announcement, Australian Chief Medical Officer, Brendan Murphy said COVIDSafe is set to be a major tool in streamlining the process of identifying contacts after a person tests positive for coronavirus.
“Finding out quickly means you can quarantine yourself or be treated much faster, protecting your family and friends from possible infection, and slowing the spread of the virus,” Professor Murphy said.
“Without this technology, health officials have to rely on people being able to remember who they have been around, and being able to provide contact details for those people.”
“It is important to note that only state and territory health officials will be able to use the information.”
“COVIDSafe only keeps contact information for 21 days. This covers the maximum incubation period for the virus and the time it takes for someone to be tested for COVID-19,” Professor Murphy said.
“Once the coronavirus pandemic is over, and Australia no longer needs the app, the app and the information on it will be deleted permanently. No virus, no app,” Minister for Health, Greg Hunt said.
How COVIDSafe works
The App can be downloaded from the App stores.
When you download the app you provide your name, mobile number, and postcode and select your age range (see Privacy). You will receive a confirmation SMS text message to complete the installation. The system then creates a unique encrypted reference code just for you.
COVIDSafe recognizes other devices with the COVIDSafe app installed and Bluetooth enabled. When the app recognizes another user, it notes the date, time, distance, and duration of the contact and the other user’s reference code. The COVIDSafe app does not collect your location.
To be effective, you should have the COVIDSafe app running as you go about your daily business and come into contact with people. Users will receive daily notifications to ensure the COVIDSafe app is running.
The information is encrypted and that the encrypted identifier is stored securely on your phone. Not even you can access it. The contact information stored in people’s mobiles is deleted on a 21-day rolling cycle. This period takes into account the COVID-19 incubation period and the time it takes to get tested. For more, see Privacy.
Source: Heavy Vehicle Industry Australia