The Australian government’s COVIDSafe app that costs around AU$200,000 a month to keep running, only found two potential close contacts of positive COVID cases in the period from 16 May to 15 November 2021.
During those six months, both Sydney and Melbourne were in extended lockdowns with the highest daily COVID case numbers the country had experienced in the entire pandemic, and much of the rest of Australia dipped in and out of lockdown conditions.
In that timeframe, 13 people uploaded to the system, 330 new handshakes were added, for a total of nine potential encounters.
Since the inception of the app, it has received 792 uploads, 1.65 million handshakes, and 2,829 potential contacts.
The numbers appeared in the Second report on the operation and effectiveness of COVIDSafe and the National COVIDSafe Data Store released by the Department of Health that is now responsible for the app.
Later on, the report states there were 12 uploads from Victoria and 13 from the Australian Capital Territory, which gave 330 and 313 new handshakes, and were from nine encounters each respectively. All other states have no contribution to make due to a “very small number of uploads”.
As if to prove how useless the app has become, the report pointed out that states continue to have access to the data collected by the app, but then again cited figures and incidents from 2020.
However, Australians continue to register for the app, with weekly numbers usually sitting above 5,000.
“In the five weeks since the start of the Sydney outbreak, there were more than twice as many registrations (25,902 registrations) of the app nationally, compared to the previous five weeks (10,894 registrations). Similarly, after fourth and fifth lockdowns commenced in Melbourne, weekly registration numbers increase,” the report said.
During the six months covered by the report, four new versions of the app were made, including a release on November 8, and the algorithm used for encounters shifted in response to the delta variant from users being within 1.5 metres of each other for 15 minutes, to also providing encounters of only one-minute in duration.
The report said the app continued to “lay a role, as one of the tools available”.
“While the role of contact tracing will diminish as we transition into living with COVID-19, it is important to maintain tools such as this to assist contact tracers manage outbreaks and reduce the spread of COVID-19 where possible,” it said.
The total cost of the app to October 4 was AU$9.2 million, with AU$2.8 million spent on hosting.
Much of the heralded digital sunscreen that Prime Minister Scott Morrison promised when introducing the app in 2020, has been replaced by state-based QR check-in apps.
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