Australia’s ‘COVIDSafe’ App Not Activated, Downloads Top 4 Million

May 3, 2020 Updated: May 3, 2020

The Australian government has delayed activating its contact tracing app COVIDsafe despite over four million downloads since its launch on April 26.

Federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt has lauded the achievement of four million downloads.

“Thank-you Australia for your amazing effort,” he said on Twitter.

But contact tracers will have to wait until next week to access COVIDSafe data, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Micheal Kidd explained, saying that the app launch was being delayed while health authorities at the state level work out the details of how the system will operate.

“What we’re doing is making sure that the operations are going to work appropriately and safely, but also [making] sure that the people in the contact-tracing facilities in the states and territories are trained on how to use the app, and how to use it appropriately,” Kidd said at a press conference in Canberra.

As it stands now, the app is operational and collecting data. But states and territories still need to implement the processes that will allow contact tracers to access and make use of the data. This will pose a delay for the authorities tracing the contacts of those currently testing positive for the Chinese Communist Party virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus.

COVIDSafe works using Bluetooth exchange of encrypted data between two phones that come into close contact for longer than 15 minutes.

Conflict With Other Health Apps

The government also said that it was looking into reports that the COVIDSafe app was conflicting with the functions of other health apps that rely on Bluetooth connection.

Diabetes Australia has cautioned users of continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) apps that the COVIDSafe app may cause connection problems with those apps.

According to some diabetes patients commenting on the warning on Facebook, not all issues are being attributed to the COVIDSafe app.

There are other medical devices relying on Bluetooth, such as heart monitors and blood oxygen monitors, that may be interfered with by the COVIDSafe app, with users being asked by the government to report such problems straight away.

There has been ongoing controversy about the privacy protection provided by the app, with some MPs saying that they’re refusing to download it for this reason. A spokesperson from the Department of Health confirmed, “The rules on privacy are being finalized, along with final IT testing.”

“The system will be operational next week ahead of the decision on possible easing of restrictions.”

Easing Restrictions

Kidd has said that it’s “realistic” that the government will see millions more people download the app before the National Cabinet meeting on May 8, when it is scheduled to consider easing restrictions.

All territories and states except Victoria have also started easing restrictions.

Premier Daniel Andrews has urged his residents to be “patient.”

Opposition Federal Labor minister Andrew Giles believes that Australians should be concerned about a “second wave” of the virus citing the situation in Singapore.

“Everyone has really taken very seriously the experience of Singapore, which was, of course, lauded as a great example of how to manage the pandemic, and of course they have been struck by a very significant second wave,” Giles told the ABC on May 2.

There have been a total of 94 deaths in Australia. The latest was reported at an Anglicare-run nursing home in western Sydney, bringing the fatalities in the Newmarch House aged-care home to 14.

According to the Department of Health, the number of reported cases stands at 6,787, with 5,789 patients having recovered.