The $5 million COVIDsafe app downloaded by 7 million Australians has been able to find 17 unique cases on top of the infections already picked up by existing contact tracing in the six months since it was released.
With advertising promoting the app as one of the cornerstones of contact tracing, alongside hygiene and social distancing measures, costing taxpayers an additional $60 million, the $65 million cost means the cases cost nearly $4 million each.
The effectiveness of the app was revealed in Senate Estimates yesterday by Department of Health associate secretary Caroline Edwards.
The app has found as well as 80 close contacts to people who tested positive. Those contacts were all in NSW.
Australia has had more than 27,500 cases – 20,000-plus in Victoria – and 905 deaths.
Edwards said that in Victoria, 1,851 people contacted by contact tracers said they had the app.
“Obviously in the context of very strong restrictions, people aren’t having contact with many people but we think that puts us in an extremely good position to use the app going forward as restrictions ease in Victoria,” she said
Victorian Chief Health Officer, Brett Sutton, said on the weekend that the app “hasn’t delivered as much as we would’ve liked”, but that was to be expected given the state’s lockdown laws prevented people from coming into contact with each other.
Opposition health spokesperson Chris Bowen described the app as “a huge bungle”.
“The Government needs to put its money where its mouth is and tell the Australian people how they are going to make this app work,” he said.
In late March, when Australians were asked if they would download a contact tracing app released by the federal government 70% said they would. Ultimately, 28% of people have.
The government’s target as 40%.
When the rival “Gapple” model, developed by Google and Apple, was released around the world, the government ruled out using it preferring to stick with the locally developed COVIDsafe, despite concerns about privacy, security and backwards compatibility that saw people grow weary of downloading the app.