COVIDSafe app helps identify two new coronavirus cases
To date the COVIDSafe app has appeared to be a white elephant, with millions of dollars invested in building the app and marketing it yet no proven cases of positive use.
Today, NSW Health announced the app had helped them trace new contacts, two of whom have tested positive to COVID-19.
"For one of the cases where NSW Health accessed the COVIDSafe App data, a previously unrecognised exposure date from a known venue, Mounties, was identified," it said.
"This resulted in the identification of an additional 544 contacts.
"Two people in this group presented for testing and were subsequently confirmed to have COVID-19."
It's assumed from this statement that contacts within the COVIDSafe app of a positive COVID-19 patient identified at least one additional unknown contact.
NSW Health likely manually traced that contact and determined the contact to have occurred at Mounties - a venue on the NSW Health advisory list, but on a date that was not previously listed as of concern.
The "additional 544 contacts" are not necessarily from the app.
It's more likely these were contacts listed at Mounties - where patrons are required to register for entry - and thus they were contact and asked to get tested.
Of them, two were positive cases.
It's a big win for the process of contact tracing, and while it's just two cases, with community spread so rapid, that single use of the app may save many positive transmissions.
But it does beg the question - should it be doing more?
The simple answer is: yes, it should.
People with the app installed should be opening it on a daily basis to ensure it is operating effectively, and people who don't have it should install it.
Additionally, to ensure the app is most effective on iPhones, Apple need to open up their new Bluetooth interface to the Australian Government app, separate to the integration of contact tracing into the Google and Apple "exposure notification" framework.
This would enable iPhones to be more effective than they are, and would enhance the Australian process of contact tracing.
At this stage, Apple seem reluctant to move from their position which requires the government to utilise the entire Google/Apple framework - something that goes against our current methods of contact tracing which, it must be admitted, are world leading.
There is still no evidence of any successful uses of the app in Victoria, the state with our highest rate of community transmission.