The Queensland Government has not used the Federal Government’s $5.8m COVIDSafe app to help manage Queensland’s latest virus clusters.
The Queensland Government has not used the Federal Government’s $5.8m COVIDSafe app to help manage Queensland’s latest virus clusters.

Why state steered clear of $5.8m COVID app

The State Government did not use the Commonwealth's trumpeted COVIDSafe app to help manage the latest clusters, amid claims its design fell short of what it was supposed to do.

Almost a year after the $5.8 million app was launched with nationwide fanfare, The Courier-Mail can reveal Queensland has instead recently relied on the "excellent" standard of check-ins by businesses and the community.

While Deputy Premier Steven Miles claimed it was no surprise the app hadn't been useful, Griffith University senior lecturer in cyber security David Tuffley said it had had a "less than stellar performance".

In April last year, Prime Minister Scott Morrison likened the usage of the app to putting on sunscreen when going outside.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said using the COVIDSafe app was like wearing sunscreen. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said using the COVIDSafe app was like wearing sunscreen. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

But it's understood the app has hardly been used by Queensland authorities since the pandemic started.

The Federal Health Department defended the app, saying it had been an effective tool in supporting the work of public health officials.

"We continue to encourage people to use the app and make sure it is operating when they head out, particularly when they are in places where they can't maintain a social distance or there is no QR code operating," they said.

"This then provides another tool for our contact tracers if there is another outbreak."

The app cost Australian taxpayers $5.8 million to develop while about $900,000 has been spent hosting it.

The Federal Government would not say when the last time someone from Queensland downloaded it and the overall downloads for the Sunshine State.

Mr Miles said Queensland's contact tracers had done a great job.

"They've worked around the clock and thankfully they've now found the missing link (in the first of the recent two clusters)," he said.

Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dan Peled
Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dan Peled

"It's no surprise the Federal Government's app hasn't been useful. The Morrison Government can't even manage the vaccine rollout.

"Throughout this entire pandemic it's the states who have kept people safe, while Morrison and his mates have picked needless fights."

Dr Tuffley said the app had a less than stellar performance.

"I do believe that one of the limitations of it is that it needed to be running on your phone and the phone should not be on standby," he said.

"It went some of the way, it didn't go all of the way.

"They probably did rush things just a bit."

A Queensland Health spokeswoman said the standard of check-in details provided by venues and personal information provided by cases was excellent during the recent two clusters.

"This meant we could quickly identify contacts and take action to ensure they got tested and isolated or quarantined," she said.

"Because of this, there was no need to use the Commonwealth's COVID-19 app."

Originally published as Why state steered clear of $5.8m COVID app


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