The National Cabinet and health officials are preparing to ease the COVID-19 isolation and movement restrictions that have been in place since the end of March. This is welcome news because it indicates the actions we’ve taken nationally have helped to contain the spread of the coronavirus and have saved many lives.
But easing restrictions will still pose a risk for renewed spread of the virus. To manage this risk, the government has launched the COVIDSafe contact tracing app. This will be vital in quickly identifying the source of further infections.
To optimise the effectiveness of the app, Defence Health encourages all members to consider installing the COVIDSafe app.
There have been some concerns about privacy and the handling of personal information on the app however, security experts now agree the app is private and secure – and it does not ‘track’ you.
The Bluetooth technology creates a ‘ping’ or ‘Bluetooth handshake’ when someone comes within 1.5 metres of another person carrying the app. After 15 consecutive pings, an encrypted ID number will record the encounter between the two devices.
If someone subsequently becomes unwell, health authorities (not the government) can access that ID number to contact people who may be at risk of infection. This will be a valuable and critical capability to keep the community safe.
Here are some other points to note about the COVIDSafe app.
- You may choose to use a pseudonym rather than your real name when you sign up. The only other details required are your age range, postcode and phone number.
- You can still use other Bluetooth functions, such as listening to music, while the app is running.
- The government has legislated a change to the Biosecurity Act which prohibits access to the data in the app by anyone other than the relevant state or territory health officials.
- The app will delete any ID data after 21 days.
- Downloading the app is voluntary. But the government has said we need around 40% of the population – or 10 million people – to participate for the contact-tracing to be successful.
The benefits of this technology will help keep the spread of the virus in check as we relax the restrictions and venture out into the community once again.