Over 1 million Australians download virus tracing app

Over 1 million Australians download coronavirus contact tracing app

A photo illustration shows a new COVIDSafe app by the Australian government as seen on an Iphone to install in Sydney. AFP

Australian officials are pleased that more than 1 million people have downloaded an app designed to accelerate contact tracing for coronavirus despite some privacy concerns.

Within 12 hours of the Australian-developed COVIDsafe app becoming available late Sunday, 1.13 million of Australia's 26 million population had downloaded it onto their smart phones.

Chief Health Officer Damian Murphy said Monday he was “really excited” by the app's early popularity.

Government officials intend to rush legislation through Parliament to outlaw use of collected data for purposes other than tracing people who might have COVID-19. Officials have also promised to release the app's source code within two weeks so that independent analysts can better understand how to works and its privacy implications.

The government says at least 40% of the Australian population needs to take up the technology based on Singapore's TraceTogether app for it to be effective.

If users of COVIDsafe are diagnosed with the virus, they can upload the app's encrypted data logs which identify other users who have been in close proximity for 15 minutes or more in the previous three week.

The government hopes the app will enable Australia to safely reopen the economy by enabling health officials to quickly identify and contain new outbreaks. Australia will resume non-urgent surgeries this week for the first time since March 27 as confidence grows that hospitals won't be overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases.

Australia has recorded 6,720 cases of the virus, 83 patients have died and 27 remained critically ill in hospitals on ventilators on Monday.