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Everything you need to know about the COVIDSafe app

Everything you need to know about the COVIDSafe app

The contact tracing app is part of the Australian Government’s effort to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Everything you need to know about the COVIDSafe app

As restrictions begin to ease in Australia and New Zealand, one of the government’s key concerns is to avoid a secondary wave of coronavirus as has happened in many other countries around the world.

The purpose of the app is to help health officials to quickly contact people who may have been exposed to COVID-19, thus reducing the chance of you passing on the virus to family, friends and other people in the community.

The app is voluntary, but more than 5.1 million Australians have already downloaded it since it was launched on April 26. Health Minister Greg Hunt said the government’s target for uptake of the app is 40% of the population (approx. 11 million people) to ensure it was effective.

Health experts, such as Dr Kathryn Snow, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Sydney, warn that we should not be complacent for up to 18 months as there is still a risk of transmission, and that we still need to be careful as things can get out of hand quickly.

How to download the app

1. The app is downloaded on to a mobile phone. For Android, you need Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) or higher. For iOS, you need iOS 10 or higher. You will need an iPhone 5S model phone or higher.
2. You can find the app by searching ‘Covid safe’ on the Apple App Store or Google Play. You can also access the app from the government’s Covidsafe app page covidsafe.gov.au
3. Once you download the app you will be asked to enter a name, phone number and postcode, and select your age range.
4. You will then receive a confirmation SMS text message to complete the installation of the app.
5. To be effective, users should have the app running in the background of their phone whenever they are coming into contact with people.
6. Users of the app will receive daily notifications to ensure the app is running.

How does it work?

The app uses Bluetooth to look for other devices that have the app installed. When 2 (or more) app users come into close proximity their phones exchange Bluetooth signals and make a series of ‘digital handshakes’.

The app records the encrypted reference code, time and proximity of 2 users. This allows the approximate distance between the users and the duration the contact occurred to be determined once the data is uploaded to the highly secure information storage system.

The proximity for a close contact is approximately 1.5 metres, for a period of 15 minutes or more.

The location is not recorded. The information is stored for 21 days (to allow for the incubation period) and then deleted.

The information is not accessible by anyone unless the user is diagnosed with coronavirus, then health officials will contact the user and close contacts to provide advice on actions they should take to manage their health.

Worried about privacy?

The Health Minister has issued a Determination under the Biosecurity Act to protect people’s privacy and restrict access to app data to state and territory health authorities for contact tracing.

It is a criminal offence to use any app data in any other way.

The app also has a range of privacy and security safeguards built in, including no collection of geolocation data (ie the app will never track your location) and secure encryption (at no time can anyone access the information that is stored on your phone).

Still have questions? Find out more here.

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