9News is tonight reporting that the Federal Government’s CovidSAFE app has not resulted in a single successful contact trace in the months since it’s launch.
Despite over 6 million downloads, it seems no actual cases have come from the app.
Is this a sign of failure? Many will argue it is – I say it’s not.
Why? Well firstly, It was never going to be the be-all and end-all – this app was meant to complement the manual contact tracing process.
Since it’s launch, there have been around 1000 new cases of COVID-19 in Australia. Considering the few weeks it took to get to the install number we have, and also considering the fact that only really in the last two weeks have we started really easing restrictions, it’s only a few hundred people infected with the app in operation and people moving in the community.
Additionally, a large number of the new cases are returned from overseas, so the number of Aussies, who got COVID-19 in the community is really quite low, so first of all, the chances of them having the app is low.
However, State health authorities have confirmed that the App has been used by some positive cases. This means when tested and returned as positive, they were asked if they have the app, and confirmed they did.
Data is then sent from the phone to the State Authority to use in Contact Tracing.
We’re told no new contacts have been identified using the app. That’s not to say the app isn’t working, it’s just to say that the app hasn’t provided any names or numbers that the individual themselves didn’t already know or remember.
EFTM has been informed by senior Government officials that in at least one case in NSW, the app was used, and many hundreds of “exposures” were recorded. However, the exposures were so short they did not meet the criteria for being a “new contact”
This will be the case in a lot of the positive cases we’ve seen in the recent week or so.
At this time, we’re not all really mixing closely in society yet. The App will come into it’s own mostly when we’re exposed more closely to random people for whom we won’t remember or have the contact details for.
Right now, positive cases are more easily able to trace back their steps for the manual contact tracing teams.
Is it a waste of time? No. Should we keep the app installed? Yes.
There’s no security risk, there’s no privacy risk, there’s just no outcomes from the app – that shouldn’t change the way we use it at all.