Called COVIDSafe, the voluntary app became available for download and registration today.
“It assists in the early alert and finding of people who may have been in contact with a person who is positive with a diagnosis,” federal Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters as he announced the launch of the app in Canberra on Sunday.
The app is based on Singapore’s Tracetogether software, which records the Bluetooth connections a phone makes with others so the user can give that data to state health authorities if they catch the virus.
The government hopes a broader testing regimen and the contact tracing app will lead to a relaxation of the economic shutdown sooner.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison told ABC radio that only health authorities would have access to the data.
“It’s another tool we need to get back to normal as much as we can,” he said.
He said the contact numbers picked up by a person’s phone are only downloaded by a health officer when someone gets the coronavirus and gives permission. “No other government agency can use this information, no one in the commonwealth government at all, and in state authorities, only the health officer can use it,” he said.
“Not the police, not the welfare people, nowhere else. Just the health officer.” Australian Privacy Commissioner Angelene Falk said important safeguards were in place to protect personal information collected via the app, and her office would watch its implementation closely.
“We can audit the system and investigate complaints from the public about privacy issues,” the commissioner said in a statement on Sunday. Labor health spokesman Chris Bowen said the app had been activated under the Biosecurity Act as an interim measure, but expects it will be legislated when parliament sits in mid-May and that will be important to assure Australians of their privacy.
“I’d be happy to download the app,” Mr Bowen told reporters in Sydney. “The only people I’ve seen say that they won’t download the app are Liberal and National MPs.” Australian Medical Association President Tony Bartone said the app was an important part of Australia’s response to the pandemic.
“The COVID-19 COVIDSafe app will assist in the contact tracing process, that laborious slow process which, together with the marvellous community response, has been implicitly responsible for reducing the spread of COVID-19 in the community and flattening the curve,” Dr Bartone said.
Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott urged all Australians to download the app.
“The more Australians who download the app the safer we will all be and the more quickly we can begin to ease restrictions,” she said in a statement.
Research from the Australia Institute shows 45 per cent of Australians say they will download and use the mobile app, while 28 per cent say they won’t. A further 27 per cent were unsure.
SPAIN’S TOLL ‘LOWEST IN A MONTH’
Spain’s daily coronavirus death toll dropped to 288, the lowest since March 20, as the country eased its lockdown to allow children outside for the first time in six weeks.
The health ministry said the figure dropped from 378 on Saturday and brought Spain’s total toll to 23,190, the third highest number of deaths after the United States and Italy.
The news came as the country took the first steps to ease one of the world’s toughest lockdowns.
Spain issued a stringent stay-at-home order on March 14, confining the country’s nearly 47 million population to their homes in a bid to slow the spread of the epidemic.
Unlike other countries in Europe and the rest of the world, Spain’s children have not been able to go out, with only adults allowed to leave the house to buy food, medicine, briefly walk the dog or because of a medical emergency.
However from Sunday, under-14s can go out once a day, for one hour between 9am and 9pm, accompanied by one parent — and no further than one kilometre from their home.
All Spaniards will be allowed out for exercise and to take walks from next weekend, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Saturday.
The government will on Tuesday unveil its broader lockdown exit plan that will likely be put into action in the second half of May, he added.
The ministry of health said that 98,731 people have now recovered from the deadly virus.
Health officials have said Spain’s COVID-19 epidemic peaked on April 2, when it recorded 950 deaths over 24 hours.