26 Apr 2020

Australia releases Covid-19 tracing app to halt virus spread

8:16 pm on 26 April 2020

Australia's coronavirus tracing app, dubbed COVIDSafe, has been released as the nation seeks to contain the spread of the deadly pandemic.

Government Technology Agency (GovTech) staff demonstrate Singapore's new contact-tracing smarthphone app called TraceTogether, as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus in Singapore .

File photo. Photo: AFP

Smartphone users can download the app for iPhones and Android but will be unable to register their information until after 6:00pm AEST.

People who download the app will be asked to supply a name, which can be a pseudonym, their age range, a mobile number and post code.

Those who download the software will be notified if they have contact with another user who tests positive for coronavirus.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has flagged the app as being essential for Australia to be able to ease coronavirus-induced restrictions across the country.

Using Bluetooth technology, the app "pings" or exchanges a "digital handshake" with another user when they come within 1.5 metres of each other, and then logs this contact and encrypts it.

The data remains encrypted on a user's phone for 21 days, after which it is deleted if they have not been in contact with a confirmed case.

The application will have two stages of consent that people will have to agree to: initially when they download the app so data can be collected, and secondly to release that data on their phone if they are diagnosed with the virus.

If a person with the app tested positive for Covid-19, and provided they consent to sharing the information, it will be sent to a central server.

From here, state and territory health authorities can access it and start contacting other people who might have contracted coronavirus.

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said the app would provide quicker contact tracing, which was essential for containing the spread of the virus.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said strict laws would govern the use of information the app collects.

A user will be unable to access the data on their phone and Commonwealth officials and law enforcement will be unable to access the central server.

The central server must store all data in Australia, and it cannot be transferred overseas.

Anyone who accesses the data illegally faces up to five years in jail.


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