Health Minister says COVIDSafe is no dud while claiming 200 cases identified

As officials from other states help with 'remote' COVID-19 tracing.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Earlier this week, former Opposition Leader Bill Shorten labelled the federal government's COVID-19 contact tracing app an "expensive dud", with no cases reported as identified through COVIDSafe.

"Labor gave support in principle, if the app could help make us safer," the now Shadow Minister for Government Services said. "But I have to say, it looks like an expensive dud, another IT bungle."

Rejecting there were any failures with the app in improving contact tracing efforts, Minister for Health Greg Hunt said that was "incorrect".

"There are over 200 cases that have been identified," he said on Wednesday.

The minister was discussing the current outbreak in Victoria, saying the federal government's number one concern in the state was contact tracing.

"We are working with Victorians, we are encouraging them to reach the standard of every case, every day; every case, every day -- that has to be the standard for tracing and then for following up the contacts," he explained.

"We're bringing in additional federal resources. We will have very senior military leadership which has now been invited in by Victoria at our suggestion to help with the tasking within the contact tracing unit in Victoria. We're bringing people from around the country, public health officials from other states are remotely tracing, and so we've been offering, providing, suggesting, proposing those resources."

In an update posted by Victoria's Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday, there was a total of 4,448 cases across the state. As of Wednesday, 27 people have died from coronavirus in Victoria.

See also: NSW-Victoria border permit site stalls as COVID-19 lockout deadline ends

Hunt said more than 300 people with COVID-19 in the state have registered for COVIDSafe, which therefore grants officials permission to look through their data.

However, as reported by the ABC, Victoria's Chief Medical Officer Brett Sutton said the information logged by the app provided no information that was not already collected through traditional contact tracing.

"The app has not added a close contact that we haven't found through our very extensive long-form interview that takes an hour or more where we go through every single setting and encounter that people have had," he was quoted as saying.

While Sutton said the app may be limiting contact tracing efforts due to the 15-minute requirement, Shorten said there are a lot of people who don't have a lot of money, those that are older, and those from culturally different communities who haven't downloaded COVIDSafe for a multitude of reasons.

"We are now in a situation where when you go out … you have to write down on a piece of paper with your pen, your phone number," he said.

"Like, congratulations government. We're now in a situation where we've rediscovered pen and paper is our best tracing app."

As of Wednesday, Hunt said there have been "well over" 6.6 million COVIDSafe downloads.


Editorial standards