Around 2.8 million Australians have downloaded the COVIDSafe app, and the PSA’s national president urges pharmacists to follow suit
At a doorstop interview at the Rosebud Respiratory Clinic in Victoria on Tuesday, federal health minister Greg Hunt told reporters that the new COVIDSafe app has been added to Australia’s existing repertoire of containment and the program testing for the novel coronavirus, which has to date conducted almost 530,000 tests.
He said that the states and territories had done a “fantastic” job of contact tracing.
“The app has now been added to that, and the advice I have is that as of 12.30 today, an extraordinary 2.44 million Australians have downloaded and registered for the COVIDSafe app.”
On Wednesday Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a press conference that around 2.8 million Australians had now downloaded the app.
In his message to members, PSA national president Dr Chris Freeman said that the organisation is proud to have joined with 11 peak health organisations, including the Pharmacy Guild, in supporting COVIDSafe.
The organisations issued a statement over the weekend urging the general public to download the app, and also thanking them for “their help in protecting each other and our doctors, nurses, carers, pharmacists, allied health professionals, dentists and support staff through their support for the difficult but life-saving social distancing measures”.
“As a unified voice, we join with the health minister and the health care community to support and approve the COVIDSafe app as a critical tool in helping Australia fight the COVID-19 pandemic, protect and save lives,” Dr Freeman wrote in his message to members.
“Downloading the app to helps protect you, your colleagues, other health professionals, carers and support staff. This will help us protect you and help you protect us.
“Community privacy concerns regarding the app are understandable. I have been reassured by the unprecedented privacy protections provided by the Human Biosecurity Emergency Determination, and in particular the tight sole-purpose provisions.
“I have downloaded and activated the COVIDSafe app to my smartphone, and encourage you, your family, colleagues and patients to do so too.”
He later told the AJP that, “Accelerating contact tracing will help slow the virus from spreading and also protect the lives of pharmacists and pharmacy staff who are currently on the front-line and at risk of coming into contact with someone who has COVID-19.
“Throughout the entire COVID-19 pandemic pharmacists have continued to adapt in order to keep themselves and their patients safe and having as many Australians as possible downloading the COVIDSafe app is just another measure to ensure this continues.”
A spokesperson for the Guild said the organisation was “supportive and encourage downloading by all”.
On Tuesday Minister Hunt praised Australians’ efforts to help limit the spread of COVID-19 and highlighted that in the 24 hours to 6.30am Tuesday morning, there had been only 12 new cases identified, only one of which was from unknown sources.
“So, only one case of community transmission across Australia,” said the Minister.
“That is perhaps the most important figure I have had the privilege of raising since coming into this role and dealing with the coronavirus issue.
“It means that as a country we are not just flattening the curve, but we are consolidating it, extending it and securing it.”
Concerns around security have been raised in regard to the app, as well as concerns that people with iPhones need to keep the app open at all times with the device’s power saving mode on.
Meanwhile on Tuesday reports circulated that hoax texts were being sent to users that the COVIDSafe app had noted that the user was more than 20km from their home address – and that they were now expected to contact the Government within 15 minutes and explain themselves.
Mr Hunt said that the case had been referred to the Federal Police for investigation and that anybody found to have been responsible will “be charged with a significant criminal offence”.
“This is about life and death. This is about saving lives and protecting lives,” he said.
“And so, whoever it is, they should be afraid of the law, because they are conducting a hoax which is about a very serious public health matter.
“But more than that, they should stop and think. It’s no game, because the more people that are able to download and register, the more people who will be protected against inadvertently contracting a life-threatening disease.”