Tech

COVIDSafe App finds a contact – finally

After 6 million downloads you’d think by now we’d have had a stack of uses of the COVIDSafe App, helping to stop the spread right? Nope.

But – it is working. The proof is in the pudding.

Sadly, it appears to be doing little in Victoria, however in NSW the Health Department confirmed today that COVIDSafe data was used to eventually find two new positive cases of COVID-19.

NSW Health said “For one of the cases where NSW Health accessed the COVIDSafe App data, a previously unrecognised exposure date from a known venue, Mounties, was identified. This resulted in the identification of an additional 544 contacts. Two people in this group presented for testing and were subsequently confirmed to have COVID-19.

What this is saying is that the COVIDSafe app showed contact tracers at NSW Health at least one additional contact, and by then manually tracing that contact and their whereabouts it was determined the contact occurred at Mounties on a date the Department had not previously had on the warning list.

The “additional 544 contacts” are not necessarily from the app – it’s more likely these were contacts listed at Mounties (where Patrons are required to register for entry) and thus they were contact and asked to get tested.

Of them, two were positive cases.

It’s a big win for the process of contact tracing, and while it’s “just” two cases, with community spread so rapid, that single use of the App may save many positive transmissions.

Five days ago NSW health listed just three dates and four time periods of concern for patrons at Mounties in Western Sydney. Today, the dates span 5 days and a vast number of time periods.

But it does beg the question – should it be doing more?

The simple answer is yes it should. People with the App installed should be opening the app on a daily basis to ensure it is operating effectively, and people who don’t have it should install it.

Additionally, to ensure the app is most effective on iPhones, Apple need to open up their new Bluetooth interface to the Australian Government app, separate to the integration of contact tracing into the Google and Apple “Exposure notification” framework. This would enable iPhones to be more effective than they are, and would enhance the Australian process of contact tracing.

At this stage, Apple seem reluctant to move from their position which requires the government to utilise the entire Google/Apple framework – something that goes against our current methods of contact tracing which it must be admitted, are world leading.

COVIDSafe App finds a contact – finally
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