The Australian Capital Territory government is working to introduce a new feature on its contact tracing app that automatically alerts users if they have been in a high-risk environment for COVID-19.
First launched in September 2020, the Check In CBR app is used by Canberrans aged 16 and over to enter various locations in the state.
It connects a user by scanning a QR code displayed in public places including public transport, venues, cafes, bars, restaurants, shops, supermarkets and events. Individuals’ personal information is stored securely within the app and can only be accessed by the state for contact tracing purposes.
Given its ease of use, customized versions of the app have been adopted by Queensland, Tasmania and the Northern Territory.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT
The ACT government has made the use of its contact tracing app non-mandatory by relaxing rules for checking in in public places. From February 11, registration will only be required at licensed bars and pubs, registered clubs, discos, strip clubs and brothels, events held without a ticket or pre-registration, including conferences, markets, musical and cultural events, schools and early childhood education and care.
The change, according to ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith, is being made as the state enters a new phase of pandemic response. The use of Check In CBR, while not mandatory, will still support those most at risk of exposure to COVID-19 while reducing requirements for businesses and locations.
With an upcoming automated exposure notification feature, the contact tracing app “will continue to be a vital tool in our efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19,” the minister said. Still under technical development, the feature will be ready in the “coming weeks”.
THE WIDER CONTEXT
Since December, the ACT government has slowed its contact tracing efforts to focus only on those most at risk of exposure to COVID-19, as its system has been overwhelmed by the surge in cases due to the variant. Omicron. It also stopped posting information about COVID-19 hotspots in the state. As of Monday, positive cases in the state continue to trend downward with more than 2,000 active cases recorded.