The Chief Medical Officer says a greater uptake of the coronavirus tracing app will calm lingering concerns about containing the virus, and give leaders the ability to be more “bold” in easing restrictions.
- National Cabinet will assess easing some coronavirus restrictions later this week
- About a quarter of adults with a smartphone have downloaded the COVIDSafe App
- The last imposed restrictions are likely to be the first leaders look to ease
Brendan Murphy said about a quarter of adults with a smartphone had downloaded the COVIDSafe App but he wanted that number increased to give leaders more confidence in easing coronavirus-imposed restrictions.
His comments come ahead of a National Cabinet meeting on Friday, in which leaders are slated to discuss restrictions that have been imposed for more than a month.
“The more we have signed up, the more confidence I’ll be able to give National Cabinet that they can make a decision [on restrictions],” Professor Murphy said.
“The more confidence they can have, the more bold they might be.”
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More than 4.25 million Australians have downloaded the COVIDSafe App since it was launched a week ago.
That represents about a quarter of the estimated 16 million Australians with a smartphone.
National Cabinet has set three tests Australia would need to pass in order to ease restrictions, which have included the closure of gyms, entertainment facilities and dining in at cafes and restaurants.
Those conditions include greater testing for the virus, greater contact tracing and the ability for the healthcare sector to contain a surge in cases.
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Leaders are happy Australia has expanded testing and bolstered the healthcare sector in recent weeks but have some concerns about contact tracing.
The COVIDSafe App is designed to give state and territory health officials the ability to quickly identify people who might have come into contact with a person who tests positive to coronavirus.
“The more people that download the app, the more confidence the National Cabinet will have about that one aspect of our preparedness that we’re still a little bit anxious about the capacity to really get on top of contacts as soon as possible,” Professor Murphy said.
He said the easing of restrictions would likely happen in a staggered process to prevent a sudden surge in outbreaks.
This chart uses a logarithmic scale to highlight coronavirus growth rates. Read our explainer to understand what that means and what we can learn from countries that have slowed the spread.
The Chief Medical Officer said while there was a likely easing of some restrictions this week, Australia would have to contend with long-term changes even after the pandemic ends.
“I think in so many parts of our society, hygiene practices need to change,” Professor Murphy said.
“Even when the coronavirus has gone, that will have influences on influenza, colds, gastro, all of those things.
“We, as a first-world, very wealthy country, have probably become a bit too relaxed about hygiene and I think it’s time that we focus on those things [we] have learned from these measures.
“I don’t think saliva to shine a cricket ball is a good thing at all.”
National Cabinet will meet twice this week on Tuesday and Friday.
The Friday meeting is when the Prime Minister flagged restrictions would be considered, a week earlier than originally planned.
“Australians have earned an early mark through the work that they have done,” he said on Friday.
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