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What does it take for Australians to download the COVIDSafe app, and is it even important among coronaviruses?

What does it take for Australians to download the COVIDSafe app, and is it even important among coronaviruses?

Nearly six months after its release, the COVIDSafe app is out of the top 10 charts for iPhone apps today.

Not the overall rankings – in the free apps in the health and fitness subcategory.

Sandwiched between workouts by muscle booster and Reflectly Journal: Daily Diary, COVIDSafe is a multi-million dollar app compared to “sunscreen” for coronavirus by Prime Minister Scott Morrison in April.

Registrations have slowed to over 7 million and it has now entered Australia’s top 200 free apps.

The government continues to support this and experts are predicting that the app could get into it as Australia tries to find the coronavirus common.


A spokesman for the health ministry told ABC that the government was promoting the application and working with states to track their consultation needs.

It continues to release new features, in response to feedback from some community.

Dana Sharp, 19, from Western Australia, who is now studying in Canberra, is typical of millions of Australians, despite government efforts.

Dana Sharp did not download the COVIDSafe app because she is in low-risk areas, but will check it out.(ABC News: Jack Snape)

“I come from the country, so it doesn’t matter much to me,” she says.

“My brother never said this thing about it. It’s not useful and it never came to me.”

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Appetite for app

Although her brother had doubts about the technology, Ms Sharp said she could download it in a wide spread.

Yet there is support in the wider community.

Tommy Tonga, 35, a Canberra barber shop owner, wants his customers to use the app.

The man in the mask raises his toe for approval
Tommy Tonga will be happy to help raise awareness about the app through his barber shop.(ABC News: Jack Snape)

“We have a lot of customers, whether they are interstate, or visiting or working here, there are two hotels nearby, so people are going in and out,” he says.

He said he was happy to sign up at his shop, encouraging customers to use the app.

Tracking phones

More than 20,000 COVID-19 cases have been reported in Victoria, but a health ministry spokesman said only “more than 1,842” cases have agreed to share their application data.

Caroline Compton, a lecturer from the University of Western Sydney and an expert on tensions between law and policy, said some did not download theirs because they did not trust the government enough to justify intrusions on their civil liberties.

She said it could be surpassed if the app demonstrates its value, but that has not yet happened.

But had some success.

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NSW health officials used the application data to identify 68 close contacts, including 14 contacts who were not identified by manual tracing.

The next wave

Julie Leesk, a public health and infectious disease specialist at the University of Sydney, said the app could get into it soon.

“The place where the app is useful is when you have people who are unfamiliar with mixing with each other and in situations where you don’t have the opportunity to register on that platform,” says Dr. Leesk.

“For example a busy bus or a taxi driver in Sydney a few weeks ago.”

But she is wary of the impact of technology.

According to information provided in August when testing a locked iPhone, another locked iPhone was detected only 50 percent of the time.


Testing technique

Retired couple Faye and Lawrence Twights both downloaded the app as soon as they saw it on television.

“It’s no harm, and it can help,” Mr Twights said.

The app instructions say “To keep COVIDSafe active, open the app every few hours”.

A big couple laughs at each other in a city
Lawrence and Fay Tweets own the COVIDSafe app, but are not sure how to keep it active.(ABC News: Jack Snape)

Mrs. Twights said she would turn it on when she went out of the house unaccustomed, but her husband had a more casual approach.

“I’m checking that it’s on … not too often,” he said.

“Actually, you mentioned it today. I hadn’t thought about it for a week or so.”

Extra app

The government is in talks with Apple and Google on how to integrate their technology framework, which they say will be more effective in identifying contacts.

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Although the technology is flawless, Dr. Leesk warns that the app has only a peripheral role in the public health response.

“The main characters in this film are you with symptoms and loneliness, fast contact tracing, hand washing, wearing a mask if you can not move and fast testing if you have physical distance,” she said.

“Everything else is extras.”