The Australian Government has launched the new voluntary coronavirus app, COVIDSafe, an important public health initiative to help keep you, your family and your community safe from further spread of coronavirus through early notification of possible exposure.

Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals Leader Michael McCormack said the app was crucial in Australians getting to the other side of the pandemic.

“By downloading this app, you will save lives and you will save livelihoods,” Mr McCormack said.

“It’s important Australians know we are winning this battle, but it’s not over yet.

“Downloading the app will get us one step closer to normality resuming.”

The Chief Medical Officer’s advice is Australians should download the COVIDSafe app as part of the plan to save lives and save livelihoods. The more people who download this important public health app, the safer they and their family will be, the safer their community will be and the sooner restrictions can be safely lifted.

The health initiative uses technology to automate and improve what state and territory health officials already do manually. COVIDSafe will speed up the process of identifying people who have been in close contact with someone diagnosed with coronavirus, quickly stopping further spread of the virus in the community.

The app has received strong support from states and territories and the health sector, which recognise it is a valuable tool that will enhance the ability to respond rapidly to local outbreaks, and the confidence to know the virus is not silently spreading throughout communities.

A new determination issued by the Minister for Health under the Biosecurity Act will ensure information provided voluntarily through the App will only be accessible for use by authorised state and territory health officials. Any other access or use will be a criminal offence.

To be effective, users should have the app running in the background when they are coming into contact with others. Your phone does not need to be unlocked for the app to work. It then securely makes a “digital handshake”, which notes the date and time, distance and duration of the contact. All information collected by the app is securely encrypted and stored in the app on the user’s phone. No-one, not even the user, can access it.

Unless and until a person is diagnosed with COVID-19, no contact information collected in the app is disclosed or able to be accessed. Then once the person agrees and uploads the data, only the relevant state or territory public health officials will have access to information. The only information they are allowed to access is that of close contacts – when a person has come within approximately 1.5 metres of another app user for 15 minutes or more – in their jurisdiction.

Once the coronavirus pandemic is over and Australia no longer needs the app, the app and the information on it will be deleted permanently.