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Australian government unveils Covid-19 app

Federal government launches Coronavirus Australia app to keep Australians updated on the latest developments in its fight against the coronavirus outbreak

The Australian government has launched a Covid-19 mobile app and a WhatsApp message service to help Australians stay up to date on the latest measures and health advisories in the fight against coronavirus.

Speaking in a media conference at Australian Parliament House yesterday, prime minister Scott Morrison said: “New technology we’ve put in place today is going to help us as a country get the messages and information we need to do the right thing to save lives and save livelihoods.”

The Covid-19 app, available from Google Play and Apple App Store, also provides a quick snapshot of the current status of the spread of the disease in Australia, as well as a symptom checker powered by healthdirect, a government-funded health information service, for those concerned about being infected.

Urging Australians to download the Coronavirus Australia app, Morrison said it also includes a registration feature about self-isolation that “helps us get information to you and supports the work that we’re doing in managing the virus”.

All information provided through the app has undergone a quality assurance process so people know it is safe, appropriate and relevant for Australians, according to the Australian department of health.

As of 29 March 2020, the app has been downloaded 482,000 times. The WhatsApp message service is being used by 291,000 people, with 1.25 million messages sent over the course of the day.

Coronavirus Australia does not include a contact-tracing feature, although the Australian Financial Review reported that the federal government is fast-tracking its review of the TraceTogther contact-tracing app developed by Singapore’s Government Technology Agency (GovTech).

The protocol that powers TraceTogther is being open sourced by GovTech to help public health authorities stem the spread of Covid-19 around the world.

Read more about Covid-19 developments in APAC

TraceTogether works by exchanging short-distance Bluetooth signals between phones to detect other participating users in proximity using the BlueTrace protocol developed by GovTech.

The development team behind the protocol said in its manifesto that mobile apps and wearable devices that deploy the BlueTrace protocol will be able to blend decentralised and centralised models of contact tracing.

“The collection and logging of encounter/proximity data between devices that implement BlueTrace is done in a peer-to-peer, decentralised fashion, to preserve privacy,” the team said.

“At the same time, the analysis and the provision of epidemic control guidance is done centrally by a trusted public health authority, committed to driving adoption. Sovereignty is respected through a federated model among a network of participating countries and public health authorities.”

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