New app to slow the spread of the corona virus

The Australian Government today launches the new voluntary corona virus app, COVIDSafe.

The app is an important public health initiative that will help keep you, your family, and your community safe from further spread of corona virus through early notification of possible exposure.


“Australians are doing an extraordinary job to flatten the curve and contain the spread of the corona virus, but we cannot be complacent,” said Prime Minister Scott Morrison.


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 corona virus, quickly stopping further spread of the virus in the community.


Minister for Health, Greg Hunt thanked Australians for their actions during the pandemic, and said the app is part of the three key requirements for easing restrictions: Test, Trace and Respond.


“We thank Australians for their help in adhering to the difficult but life-saving social distancing measures,” Minister Hunt said.


“We are now calling on all Australians to download the COVIDSafe app to help protect you, your family and your community from further spread of COVID-19. This will be necessary if we are to start easing some of the difficult social distancing restrictions we have had to put in place” Minister Hunt said.


The app has received strong support from states and territories and the health sector, which recognise 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 Bio-security Act will ensure 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 corona virus.


“Once installed and running, the COVIDSafe app uses Bluetooth to look for other phones that also have the app installed,” Minister Robert said.


“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 corona virus.


“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 corona virus 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 Hunt said.


Corona virus is a serious and contagious respiratory disease with symptoms including fever, a dry cough, a sore throat and shortness of breath that has infected more than 2.8 million people globally and led to 200,000 deaths. In Australia around 6,700 people have contracted corona virus and sadly 82 people have died.


The App can be downloaded from the App stores.


MORE INFORMATION:

For the latest advice, information, copy and resources, go to https://www.health.gov.au/news

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