Until now, you must have heard about the millions of downloads for social media applications, but this time we are not talking about any social media app. Yes, this is not a social media app with over 2 million of download, but it is an app for social distancing known as COVIDSafe app.
The country is all set for experiencing ease in lockdown restrictions that were imposed as a result of the coronavirus, but now the number of new cases of COVID-19 coming daily has significantly reduced. In Australia, there have been approximately 6.7k confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 88 deaths (Source: WHO, 29 April 2020, 2:00 AM CEST).
Recently, Australia relaxed some measures after successfully containing the virus, and the government has progressively implemented moderate actions since the end of March, like allowing schools and daycare to operate. However, presently, many businesses are still closed or are functioning with restricted activities, gatherings of more than two people are not permitted, with a few exemptions. The Australians are advised to stay at home unless visiting a doctor, exercising or purchasing essentials.
The Australian government is putting all its efforts towards containing the spread of the virus and has released COVIDSafe application to stop the spread of coronavirus infection. This app has been released as the nation pursues to contain the spread of the ongoing pandemic.
Australians have eagerly supported the government’s new step towards contact tracing app, and within 24 hours, this app managed to hit 2 million downloads.
Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison has shown green flag to this application as it is important for the Australians, given the backdrop that the country is all set to ease coronavirus-induced restrictions across the nation.
COVIDSafe- New App to slow the Spread of Coronavirus
On 26 April 2020, the Australian government launched the new voluntary app- COVIDSafe for reducing the spread of coronavirus. This is an important public health initiative by the government to keep all Australians protected from the further spread of coronavirus by notifying early about the possible exposure.
This app is for smartphone users; one can easily download COVIDSafe for Android, as well as iPhones and will be able to register their information. The COVIDSafe app, is a voluntary app intended to assist health officials to track individuals who might have encountered a COVID-19 infected person.
This application uses Bluetooth technology for functioning and pings or exchanges a digital handshake with the other person who is also using this app, when they come in contact within the range of 1.5m of each other. And then this logs the contact as well as encrypts it.
The COVIDSafe app helps find close contacts of COVID-19 cases and helps state and territory health officials to instantly contact individuals who may have been exposed to the coronavirus.
This application will accelerate the existing manual procedure of finding the individuals who have been closely in contact with COVID-19 infected person.
This means that if a person is at risk, the health authorities can inform him quickly and hence, lessens the chances that person is conveying the virus to the family, friends or other individuals in the society.
The health representatives from the state, as well as territory government can only have the access of information available in the app if someone tests positive and approves to the information in their phone being uploaded. These health officials could only utilise the information provided by the COVIDSafe app to inform whether the person requires quarantining or is supposed to get tested for COVID-19. The COVIDSafe app is the only app having Government’s approval to use contact tracing for avoiding the spread of the virus.
How the COVIDSafe App Performs
After downloading and installing the app from the Australian Google Play store or Apple App store, which you can also access from the government’s CovidSafe app page covidsafe.gov.au, you will be asked to register your name (or pseudonym), age range, postcode and phone number.
This application identifies other devices that have installed COVIDSafe app and are Bluetooth enabled. Moreover, on recognition of another user, it notes the time, date, distance as well as the entire duration of the contact and the reference code of the other user. However, this application does not collect the location of any user.
Notably, in order to be effective, the user should have the COVIDSafe app running in their phone when they go to attend their daily business and come in contact with other people. The app users would receive a notification on a daily basis to make sure whether their app is running properly or not.
The data in COVIDSafe is encrypted, and that encrypted identifier is kept securely on the phone of user, and not even the user has access to this information. The contact information saved in the user’s mobile automatically gets deleted on a 21-day rolling cycle. This 21-day period is considered as the incubation period for the coronavirus, and the time it takes to get tested.
When an app user is diagnosed positive with the coronavirus infection, state and territory health officials will ask the person who he/she has been in contact with. If individuals have downloaded the COVIDSafe app on their mobiles, and they have given their approval, the encrypted contact information from the app will be directly uploaded to a highly safe and secure data storage system.
Both state and territory health representatives will then make use of the contacts captured by the app to support the usual contact tracing. They will call the individuals to let them or their parents know that they might have been exposed, additionally offering the pieces of advice for next steps, which comprise of the following-
- What to look out for;
- When, how and where to get tested;
- What to do to protect friends and family from exposure.
As the country is all geared up to ease some lockdown restrictions, after finding success against COVID-19, this COVIDSafe app by the government will play a significant role in further preventing the spread of coronavirus and at the same time will alert the Aussies when they come in contact of an infected person. This seems to be a great step by the government to protect the country from the deadly virus.