Flat White

COVIDSafe is grossly flawed – an update

21 July 2020

5:00 PM

21 July 2020

5:00 PM

You read about it first in the SpecOz back on April 28 when I outlined the obvious limitations of the COVIDSafe app. It was clearly being grossly oversold by government and was never going to perform as promised. 

Remember the pledge that if we download the app then the lockdown restrictions could be lifted sooner? Absolute rot. But I did not predict it to be as costly and totally ineffective as has now been proven. 

On 20 July we learned courtesy of a Channel 9 investigative report that the amount of money spent on the app with technology company DELV was $3.8 million for developing the app and addition funds for other work bringing the total to around $6 million. DELV’s CEO Masseh Haidary is the husband of controversial ACT Liberal Party candidate Mina Zaki. 

A further estimated $64 million was spent on advertising the pseudo benefits of COVIDSafe to encourage people to download. Over 6 million did so. 

So how has it performed in assisting contain the current COVID-19 outbreaks in Victoria and New South Wales? 

Since the app was launch, there have been 4622 cases diagnosed in Victoria to 20 July. The app was accessed 325 times and zero contacts identified. In NSW during the same period, 586 cases diagnosed, app accessed 12 times and zero contacts identified. 

For a health perspective the critical limitations of the app are: 

Firstly, the definition of a contact is a person also with the app who is within 1.5 metres for at least 15 min, excluding most casual contacts. 

Secondly, the most vulnerable in our community, the frail aged, are the cohort least likely to download and use such an app.  

Thirdly, the app is useless for transmission via contaminated surfaces. 

These flaws were obvious on day one.  

In addition to the government having flushed another $70 million down the proverbial toilet at a time of mounting debt, this may not be the only downside. A major concern is that those with the app may have been lulled into a false sense of security. Even our Prime Minister likened the app to wearing sunscreen as a protective shield. Were there people, perhaps many, who consequently relaxed important effective precautions? 

Dr David Adler is a former Deputy Medical Secretary of the Australian Medical Association.

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