RACGP releases COVIDSafe fact sheet

Matt Woodley

4/05/2020 2:10:24 PM

The resource is designed to help GPs communicate to patients how the app works, why it is safe, and what they can do to help combat the coronavirus.

COVIDSafe app
It is believed around 40% of Australians need to download COVIDSafe in order for it to be effective. (Image: AAP)

The recently released app is designed to aid contact tracing efforts ahead of a potential easing of lockdown restrictions, but has been met with reservations from some in the community regarding its effectiveness and how it handles and uses private information.
In response, the RACGP – which previously came out in support of the app – has now released a COVIDSafe Fact Sheet aimed at providing accessible and straightforward information to patients.
More than four million people have already downloaded the app, but it is still well-short of the around 40% coverage of the population required in order for it to become effective.
A recent Ipsos survey of 2000 Australians found that while 54% somewhat supported or strongly supported the app, 37% were opposed, with privacy cited as the overwhelming concern (79% of those opposed).
RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon said the new fact sheet will help clarify details of the app that are leading to confusion and alarm for some members of the community.
‘This pandemic is forcing us to adapt the way we live our lives and go about our day-to-day business,’ he said.
‘I understand that asking people to download an app helping to track cases of a potentially deadly virus can cause some anxiety. This isn’t something that we have had to do before and some people may not have much experience downloading and using apps.
‘You may have heard a lot of technical language being used in the media concerning this app and its capabilities. This fact sheet avoids all of that – it’s designed for everyone to read and share with their friends and family.’
Aside from explaining that the app helps mitigate the risk of outbreak through tracking cases of the virus in the community, the fact sheet also provides technical information on how it achieves such a result.
‘Basically, if you come into contact with others who are using it, a “digital handshake” occurs,’ Dr Nespolon said.
‘This information is securely stored on your own phone and is not accessed by anyone else unless a person is diagnosed with the virus and they consent to uploading the contact information collected to a highly secure information storage system.’
Other nations, such as South Korea, have used similar technology to successfully reopen parts of society previously shut down by the coronavirus, and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently said any move to ease coronavirus restrictions will be contingent on ‘millions more’ registering.
With the national cabinet set to meet again on Friday to deliberate changes to the lockdown, Dr Nespolon agrees it is vital more people download the app immediately.
‘Please encourage your family members, friends and work colleagues to download the app. If they express concerns about security or privacy, point them to this fact sheet,’ he said.
‘Also perhaps remind them that the more people who use COVIDSafe the more effective it will be. If there is a high number of downloads we will get closer and closer to removing the social restrictions in place and getting our communities back to normal.
‘As I have been saying to my patients, these are anxious times, but we are all in this together. We all have a role to play in combating this once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.’
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