With an effective COVID-19 vaccine possibly still more than a year away, it’s no surprise to see enormous interest in ways of treating the disease or limiting its spread. We certainly cannot afford to write off prematurely approaches that evidence suggests offer large potential benefits. The Australian COVIDSafe app is a good example.
Launched on April 26, the app rapidly became the fastest-downloaded app in Australian history, with 5.7 million of us having it on our phones three weeks after launch. Since then, uptake has slowed amid doubts over its effectiveness.
COVIDSafe can make a difference in case numbers.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen
It is true that the app has been little used by authorities so far and has detected few cases. This is in fact a good thing and shows how well Australia has weathered the COVID-19 storm. The app has not detected many cases because, until recently, there have been few cases to detect and most of those have been in hotel quarantine, where the only possible contacts are easily found by traditional methods.
Social distancing and testing for the virus – the main control measures that the app was designed to complement – have been working well. We should not let this obscure the substantial benefits that the use of a well-functioning app can bring if we experience a more widespread outbreak.
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