HUNTER doctors, nurses and the business community have thrown their support behind the Federal Government's COVID-19 contact tracing app in a bid to save lives and get society "back on track".
More than a million people downloaded the COVIDSafe app in the first few hours after its launch on Sunday.
But with many people concerned about the privacy of the technology, the Hunter GP Association, NSW Nurses and Midwives Association (NSWNMA), and the Hunter Business Chamber have spoken up in support of the app.
Dr Lee Fong, of the Hunter GP Association, said a "big pro" of downloading the app was saving lives.
"If we can trace potential contacts who have COVID-19 faster, we can slow the spread, and slowing the spread will mean less people die," Dr Fong said. "Another massive benefit, if enough people take this up, is that we can be more confident that lifting restrictions won't land us in a New York-type situation. This would mean we could get our society back on track faster, which is better for the economy - and that is better for everybody."
Dr Fong said questions about privacy were "fair".
"But I personally have no concerns," he said. "Everything I've seen about the app, including notes by a software developer who has pulled apart the Android version and had a good look at the guts of it, suggests there are no significant privacy concerns. Anonymised IDs from other phones that have been less than 1.5m from your phone for over 15 minutes is stored securely on your phone, and is only uploaded when you, as the owner of the phone, manually initiate the upload - and you would only do that if you have a positive test for COVID-19. The app automatically deletes all data that is over 21 days old as well. Facebook and Google are far, far more intrusive on our privacy - and most of us use those services every day without a second thought."
For the COVIDSafe app to be effective, at least four in every 10 Australians needed to download it, Dr Fong said.
"The more who do it, the better it will be for all of us," he said.
"I think it would be amazing if we all, as a community, got together on this and made it work. I reckon Novocastrians are up for it."
Jeremy Beckhaus, NSWNMA Belmont Hospital branch delegate believed the tracking app would "prove useful" in tracking potential exposures.
"I personally have the hope that it might take some of the pressure off Emergency Departments and GP clinics by allowing people to better identify and manage their exposure risks," he said. "For now though, I feel that the small sacrifices to individual privacy will be worth getting ahead of the virus in the long run."
Bob Hawes, chief executive of the Hunter Business Chamber, said there was a lot at stake that went "beyond the individual".
"We have businesses here that cannot work from home, and any measures we can put in place to better inform them about the incidence or risks around contact, will hopefully be helpful," he said. "Those things can only happen if we can stop the spread of the pandemic. If we don't, and they go back to things and take the virus back to work with them, then we can see an entire business having to shut down because of isolation requirements as a consequence.
"If this is a tool that can help us open up for business in a structured and safer way, we are definitely supportive."
Brett Holmes, the general secretary of the NSWNMA, said they supported the public health benefits of the app.
"The COVIDSafe app is another step in all of our efforts to manage COVID-19 in Australia," he said. "Testing is expanding across communities and we're all continuing to practice social distancing and regular hand washing, but the COVIDSafe app will also support the important efforts of contract tracers.
"Nurses, midwives and all other healthcare workers are doing everything they can to protect and care for us, we need to continue playing our part to tackle COVID-19."
On Monday, Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy said Australia's "suppression strategy" was working well, but we could not become complacent.
He was proud of how the community had responded to the launch of the app, and he said it was about "protecting them" and helping public health officials do their job.
"It is a no risk, highly secure, very safe app," he said.
"No one wants a situation occurring here like we've seen in other countries, and this app is about doing that."
There had been 6729 confirmed cases across the country, and 83 deaths.
There were currently 43 people in intensive case, including 27 being supported by ventilators.
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