Australia launched COVIDSafe; a coronavirus contact tracing app

A close up of the government's coronavirus tracing app. Source: SBS

Australia launched COVIDSafe; the government's tracing app to help contact people exposed to the COVID-19 virus. It's a mobile phone app and here's what you need to know.

What is the app designed for?

The app is expected to improve the tracing of coronavirus cases and the people they come in contact with. It will enable the identification of individuals who may have come into contact with a positive case, through the data stored in the phone, once made available to the health authorities.

The contact will be recorded if the person got within 1.5 m of another person with the app open and the contact lasts for at least 15 minutes.

Subscribing to the COVIDSafe app is voluntary. The government recommends all Australian residents to download ti because the more Australians connect to the COVIDSafe app, the quicker we they can track the virus.

How will the authorities use the COVIDSafe data?

The COVIDSafe app was created to speed up the current manual process of finding people who have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19. This process should reduce the chances of passing on the virus to family, friends and other people in the community, without being aware of it.

State and territory health officials can only access the app information if someone tests positive and agrees to the information in their phone being uploaded. The health officials can only use the app information to help alert those who may need to quarantine or get tested.

The COVIDSafe app is the only contact trace app approved by the Australian Government. For more information, visit the COVIDSafe app Health Department website.

What personal information do you share through the COVIDSafe app?

When users download the app, they provide their name, mobile number, and postcode and select an age range. They will then receive a confirmation SMS text message to complete installation. The system then creates a unique encrypted reference code.

COVIDSafe recognises other devices with the COVIDSafe app installed and Bluetooth enabled. When the app recognises another user, it notes the date, time, distance and duration of the contact and the other user’s reference code. The COVIDSafe app isn't supposed to collect users' location.

The Australian government says that the information is encrypted and that encrypted identifier is stored securely on the user's phone. 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. 

What happens when an app user tests positive?

When someone is diagnosed with COVID-19, the encrypted contact information from the app will be uploaded to a secure information storage system, if the user grants permission. State and territory health officials will then:

  • use the contacts captured by the app to support their usual contact tracing
  • call people to let them or their parent/guardian know they may have been exposed
  • offer advice on next steps, including:
  • what to look out for
  • when, how and where to get tested
  • what to do to protect friends and family from exposure
  • Health officials will not name the person who was infected.

 If you are concerned about the privacy of your data, read the Privacy Policy.

 


People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others and gatherings are limited to two people unless you are with your family or household.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus.

Source SBS News, Australian Government Department of Health