As we’ve all no doubt obsessively read and re-read over the last few weeks, in order for Australia’s current lockdown rules and extreme physical distancing guidelines to safely come to an end in the coming months, there’s a number of key conditions which need to be met. One of those conditions is having advanced technology for contact tracing in place, which will happen via the use of an app.
Released yesterday, that app is COVIDSafe, which has been designed to help health officials quickly get in touch with anyone who may have unknowingly been exposed to COVID-19.
Using the app is simple—once downloaded, for Android or Ios, you’ll be asked for your name, age range, phone number and postcode, and sent an SMS code to verify your installation. Then, as long as you’ve enabled Bluetooth and keep the app running in the background when you leave the house, whenever you come within 1.5 metres of another person with the app installed for more than 15 minutes, that information will be securely logged and stored on your phone. There are currently some kinks being ironed out for iPhone users—namely, though you can lock your screen, the app has to be open for the Bluetooth functionality to work, and using other apps will stop data being collected. This issue should supposedly be eliminated in a few weeks, however.
Nothing happens to the information unless you, or someone you’ve had contact with, is diagnosed with COVID-19. If that happens, anyone who has had contact with the infected person within the last 21 days will receive a phone call from health officials and be told what actions they should take. If you are the person diagnosed, your name or personal information won’t be shared with anyone.
It should be noted that the app doesn’t record any information about location, nor does it track your movements—all it records is the date and time, as well as the distance and duration of your contact with the other person. Also, all the data is deleted after 21 days, and the info isn’t accessible to anyone (including the phone’s owner) unless a person is diagnosed and the information is required for contact tracing.
Currently, over a million Australians have downloaded the app, which is good news—but for the tracing system to work, at least 40 to 50 percent of the population have to have it installed, which means at least another nine million downloads are needed. If you’re thinking about it, you can find all the information here, as well as a handy FAQ guide to any questions you might have here.
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Image credit: Derick Anie