Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said that Australians will not be made to download an app to track the spread of COVID-19, a day after this was flagged as a possibility.
The federal government is developing an app that will use data from people’s phones to keep track of close contacts, and warn health authorities of potential new infections.
Yesterday, deputy chief medical officer Paul Kelly said that we would “start with voluntary [downloads] and see how that goes”, suggesting the government may later make the app compulsory.
Scott Morrison himself said that it would be his “very strong preference” for everyone to download it, telling Triple M that this would be “an act of national service”.
When asked point-blank if downloads would be compulsory, he said:
“I don’t want to be drawn on that. I want to give Australians the opportunity to get it right. That’s my objective, that’s my Plan A, and I really want Plan A to work.”
Today, he took to Twitter to clarify his position, saying:
“The App we are working on to help our health workers trace people who have been in contact with coronavirus will not be mandatory.”
In a follow-up Tweet, he added:
“We will be seeking the cooperation and support of Australians to download the app to help our health workers, to protect our community and help get our economy going again.”
The App we are working on to help our health workers trace people who have been in contact with coronavirus will not be mandatory.
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) April 18, 2020
A similar app called TraceTogether has already been rolled out in Singapore, but there, only 10-20% of the population are thought to have downloaded it.
Australian officials have said that at least 40% of people would need to use our version of the app it in order for it to be effective.Image: Getty Images / Sam Mooy