Health Minister Greg Hunt confirmed the latest data on downloads on Sunday night just hours after it was launched.
Praising Australians for helping virus trackers to beat COVID-19, he urged people to download the app and allow for faster contact tracing.
“As at 10:30 PM, 1 million Australians have now downloaded and registered for the #CovidSafeapp – please join us and help protect ourselves, our families, each other but above all else our nurses and doctors,’’ Mr Hunt said.
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Australian billionaire Mike Cannon-Brooks, the co-founder of the software company Atlassian also urged the tech community to back the app and “fight misinformation.”
Writing on the Hacker News website, he was confident the Morrison Government would also release the COVIDSafe app code as a transparency measure.
“They’re obviously operating with extreme urgency to get the app out. For you,’’ he said.
“Turn the HN angry mob mode off – it’s not helpful. We’re all in this together. They won’t get it all right – and we as a tech community can help them. Find a bug & help get them closed.
“When asked by non-technical people “Should I install this app? Is my data/privacy safe? Is it true it doesn’t track my location?” – say “Yes” and help them understand.
“Fight the misinformation. Remind them how little time they think before they download dozens of free, adware crap games that are likely far worse for their data & privacy than this ever would be. Thank you.”
As at 10:30 PM 1 million Australians have now downloaded and registered for the #CovidSafeapp – please join us and help protect ourselves, our families, each other but above all else our nurses and doctors
— Greg Hunt (@GregHuntMP) April 26, 2020
Earlier, The Project panellist Tommy Little urged Australians to get behind it “for us to live our normal lives quicker”.
“I am the person that if ever someone tells me to do something, I say no, but I’m so sick of talking about this virus,” he said.
“I’m sick of not playing sport, sick of not watching sport, just – download the freaking app, people.”
Host Peter van Onselen admitted he was sceptical but had been given a stern talking to about downloading the app, by his The Sunday Project co-host, Lisa Wilkinson.
“I’m glad Tommy you said that. Seriously, Lisa, you convinced me. You could call me belligerent. I’m doing it to be stubborn. I thought about it,” PVO said.
“We had a strong conversation,” Wilkinson replied.
FYI I wrote a brief comment on Hacker News to try to explain how the tech community in Australia can fight some of the FUD about this app:https://t.co/lpn1xJfme6#covidsafe https://t.co/RWtrACSsZ2
— Mike Cannon-Brookes 👨🏼💻🧢 (@mcannonbrookes) April 26, 2020
Australia’s chief medical officer Brendan Murphy has pleaded with mobile phone users to consider downloading the app to help political leaders lift more restrictions. But he stressed the app was voluntary.
“What this will do is give a list of the mobile phone numbers of those people who have been in contact within that distance for 15 minutes or more,” he said.
“We need to support the several thousand wonderful, wonderful disease detectives in our public health units who do contact tracing. So, when someone tests positive, they contact them – and at the moment there’s a very manual process – where they find out who they’ve been in contact with, ask for their phone numbers, ring up these people.
“What this app does, it just helps them with that process. It automates it to some extent, it helps in getting the numbers, it helps people who might have forgotten who they’ve been in contact with. It also means, as the Minister said, that there may be people that you’ve been in contact with for the period of time that makes you contact, you don’t even know who they are – so we don’t have to go and say ‘anyone who was in this place, on this day please let us know’ – because we will know.”
Mr Hunt said users would be able to refuse to give authorities access to the data if they choose not to disclose it later.
“If you are diagnosed then you already have voluntary consent for downloading the app but you are asked a second time – only a state public health official can be given access to that data, and only after you have then consented for a second time,’’ he said.
“In terms of privacy, no person can access what’s on their phone, no other person can access what’s on your phone. It is also prohibited by law – I have already signed into law, on behalf of the government, a Biosecurity Act Determination which prevents access, which ensures that the data has to be kept on an Australian server.
“It cannot leave the country, it cannot be accessed by anybody other than a state public health official, it cannot be used for any purpose other than the provision of data for the purposes of finding people with whom you have been in close contact, and it is punishable by jail if there is a breach of that.”
Mr Hunt said he was confident Australia was continuing to flatten the curve of new cases.
“In the last seven days there have been 117 cases, this compares with the previous seven days where there were 297 cases,’’ he said.
“We have now had an average increase in case numbers of less than 1 per cent for 15 consecutive days. So we are winning, but we haven’t won.”
Samantha Maiden is news.com.au’s national political editor | @samanthamaiden