The COVIDSafe app has cost $ 9 million so far, but it hasn’t discovered any close contact during the current outbreaks
The federal government’s COVIDSafe mobile app has not helped uncover close contacts during the current COVID-19 outbreaks, the ABC has confirmed.
- COVIDSafe has only identified 17 close contacts that have not been found by state officials since the start of the pandemic
- NSW and ACT did not access any data from the app during the current outbreaks
- Instead, states and territories relied on their own QR code technology
The multi-million dollar COVIDSafe app was touted as an essential tool to help with contact tracing when it launched last year, but has faded from public awareness.
The software relies on Bluetooth handshakes between devices, so its usefulness has plunged as fewer people are actively using the app.
New South Wales has been battling a wave of COVID-19 cases since June, Victoria since May and the Australian Capital Territory since August.
NSW Health has recorded more than 55,000 cases since June, but has not accessed data from the COVIDSafe app when compiling their movements.
âIt was not necessary to use the COVIDSafe app with any cluster of cases in 2021,â a spokesperson said.
Victoria has recorded more than 15,000 cases since the end of May and identified around 200,000 primary and secondary close contacts.
COVIDSafe has not identified any contacts that would not have been found otherwise using other contact tracing methods in the past four months, the state health department said.
The ACT, which has registered around 800 cases since last month, said it had “never used data from the COVIDSafe app” in contact tracing.
“[ACT Health’s] systems met our needs to identify cases and contacts efficiently and quickly, âsaid a spokesperson.
State and territory contact tracers conduct interviews with people who test positive and review their records by QR code.
Public health officials can also use a person’s credit card transaction history and public transport data to piece together where they’ve been.
The office of Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said the COVIDSafe app “is a tool for use by state and territory public health officials.”
Queensland has recorded around 800 cases this year and is currently experiencing an outbreak, but the state has not accessed COVIDSafe data for around 12 months.
âThe COVIDSafe app has been used twice in Queensland to complement contact tracing efforts,â said a spokesperson for Queensland Health.
“There has been one contact identified through the app to date, and no positive cases.”
Since the start of the pandemic, COVIDSafe has not identified any close contacts in the Northern Territory, Western Australia, South Australia or Tasmania.
Most Australians no longer use the app
The COVIDSafe app works by transmitting a Bluetooth signal at regular intervals to get in touch with other users.
If a person tests positive for COVID-19, state and territory authorities can request access to this telephone log to determine who else may have been infected.
Over 7 million people have signed up to use the app since its launch, but only a fraction of those people are still actively using it.
COVIDSafe’s reputation has been tarnished by technological issues, including issues with the app working on Apple iPhones when it was running in the background.
The federal government has refused to switch to a digital contact tracing system jointly developed by Apple and Google, which has been adopted by more than 50 jurisdictions around the world.
The COVIDSafe app has cost taxpayers more than $ 9 million to date, the Senate learned today.
Number of close contacts identified by the COVIDSafe application
The federal health ministry said the app had identified 81 close contacts nationwide since the start of the pandemic, including 17 not otherwise known to state officials.
The app came in handy during a July 2020 cluster associated with the Mounties club in southwest Sydney, a spokesperson for the department said.
âTwo people from this group showed up for testing and were subsequently confirmed to have COVID-19,â the spokesperson said.
Shadow Minister of Government Services Bill Shorten said the cost of COVIDSafe will soon cross the $ 10 million mark.
Six cases of COVID-19 in Western Australia consented to downloading COVIDSafe data from their phones, but no contact was found.
South Australia did not access the app’s data.
Tasmania has not had any locally acquired cases since the application was deployed.
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