Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie concerned for elderly on the south coast

UPLOADED: Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie with the COVIDSafe app on her phone.
UPLOADED: Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie with the COVIDSafe app on her phone.

Issues concerning the downloading of the COVIDSafe app was taken up at the public hearing of the Senate Committee looking into the COVID-19 response.

Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie has been approached by quite a number of older people from the south coast concerned they have older phones and cannot download the COVIDSafe app.

"How fortunate we are to live in Mayo. But as the winter closes in, all of us face the reality of living with the health threat and the economic consequences of COVID-19 for some time to come," Ms Sharkie said.

"I am also conscious that senior members of our community are still feeling particularly vulnerable. Some seniors are concerned about what is safe and what isn't.

"One topic of concern is not being able to download the COVIDSafe app, because their mobile phones are not compatible."

There are nearly 17 million smartphones in Australia and the app has been downloaded by more than six million Australians.

However, if you have smartphones operating with older software, some devices cannot support the blue tooth connectivity required to make the app work effectively and, importantly, securely.

The Senate Select Committee looking at the Government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic quizzed health officials and the app designers and raised the issue of older Australians and other vulnerable groups on lower incomes with older phones not being able to download the app.

Ms Sharkie said the key message from the public hearing was reassurance from the Health Department that people who cannot download the app were in no way at greater risk.

"The app is a tool, one of many tools the Government has to manage the pandemic. It will help, and make it quicker in some instances to trace contact, but it doesn't replace in anyway the extensive manual process of contact-tracing," she said.

"It appears authorities are really hoping this app will be taken up by the so-called super spreaders who are asymptomatic, living in densely populated areas and who are perhaps less diligent about social distancing and regular hand washing."

Statistics show the largest infection group in Australia has been young people aged 20 to 29 and the vast majority of Australian COVID-19 cases have been brought in from overseas.

"Chances are younger people will have the latest phone. In fact, the Senate Committee heard that most of the smartphones in Australia can download the app so there is strength in the potential numbers. Health authorities were also at pains to stress that they do not want people to have a false sense of security because they have the app or undue fear because they do not," Ms Sharkie said.

"The app will not prevent a person from contracting COVID-19. At the moment social distancing and good hand hygiene are the most effective tools we have to prevent the spread. These are practices we can all do, and we should continue to do despite the easing of restrictions.

"After doing my research I downloaded the app because I want to do my bit to help the wider community effort. I know many in the community are disappointed they cannot do the same."

But you can still assist. Keep a daily diary of where you go and who you meet and when. Hopefully you never have to refer to it.

Ms Sharkie said all concerns about the app or any other COVID-19 related issue, the Federal Government has collaborated with peak aged industry groups to create the 1800 171 866 National COVID Older Persons Information Line.

"And, of course, you are always welcome to contact my office on 8398 5566. No-one needs to navigate this pandemic alone," Ms Sharkie said.

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