App not used for contact tracing

30 Sep App not used for contact tracing

Tamsin Rose – The Herald Sun – Wednesday 30 September 2020

For a fortnight at the height of the second wave, the Victorian Government stopped using the COVIDSafe app to track down coronavirus cases.

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) was concerned about the privacy of user data, according to the federal Department of Health.

“DHHS were also concerned about whether the privacy laws prohibited access to COVIDSafe App data by contact tracers from interstate and third party providers who were assisting Victoria in their contact tracing efforts,” the federal Department of Health said in an answer to a question on notice.

“As a result, contact tracing interviews did not collect information or access details of cases who had downloaded the COVIDSafe app, while the legal position was clarified.”

The DHHS halted using the app on July 16 and did not restart until August 1.

Victorian Senator James Patterson said it was a shame the state had scrapped the use that has proved useful in tracking down cases in NSW.

“It’s disappointing that at the height of the crisis the Victorian government wasn’t using every tool available at its disposal to quickly track and trace the virus,” Senator Patterson told the Herald Sun.

“We will never know how many were missed in Victoria by their failure to do so.”

A DHHS spokesman said the app would play an “important role in the response to the pandemic going forward”.

To date, 1837 Victorian cases have used the app.

Daniel Andrews has been under sustained pressure to improve the state’s troubled contact tracing system, with Victorian officials sent to NSW to learn from their counterparts north of the border.

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