World praise for Australia’s COVIDSafe app
Exclusive: Two top US doctors and a British infectious disease expert have praised Australia for the way the country has handled the coronavirus pandemic.
Dr Mervyn Silverman, who as Director of Public Health in San Francisco and was at the front lines of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, told News Corp he was impressed by how Australia had adapted quickly to social distancing and adhered to lockdowns.
"I think countries like Australia got to it faster. There hasn't been a peak and doesn't look like there will be one, if Australia keeps doing what it's doing and you remain vigilant," Dr Silverman said from his California home.
"Australia's lockdown and isolation has worked. Australia has flattened the curve before it got out of control."
Dr Silverman also praised the COVIDSafe app, saying any privacy concerns should be negated against the "greater good" of the population's health and safety.
More than 5.1 million of an estimated 16 million people have registered for the federal government's coronavirus tracing app.
"I think the app is a very good idea and I'm looking forward to the US doing something similar.
"This information right now they're gathering is going to help me to realise, wow, I may have been exposed, so I'd better get a test. So unless I'm missing something, I personally don't see an issue here. Australia has done so well, you want to keep that going," Dr Silverman said.
"Maybe I'm being too simplistic but it just seems to me that it is for the greater good. OK, China defines the greater good as being in control of everyone, but to be able to track COVID-19, that all seems like a plus.
"To me, I think the health of the population is more important than any other concerns."
Dr Ricardo Izurieta who, as the National Director of the Cholera Control in Ecuador, dealt with the cholera epidemic of the early 1990s, backed Dr Silverman in agreeing that a tracing app was "a good idea".
"The use of apps for 'tracing' COVID-19 cases is a useful tool for prevention and control but may have difficulties in countries where the legal framework has strong laws in favour of the protection of privacy," Dr Izurieta, now Director Global Communicable Diseases at the University of South Florida's College of Public Health, said.
"It also needs a high level of collaboration of the community."
But Dr Izurieta said that Australia need only look to the severe COVID-19 outbreak in the northern hemisphere to continue to be vigilant.
"Australia has done well under favourable climatic conditions of summer and fall, and I hope it's well prepared for the unfavourable climatic conditions of winter and spring."
British scientist Dr James Hay, from Harvard's Centre for Communicable Disease Dynamics, backed Dr Silverman, telling News Corp Australia the app would make it much easier to track those who had been exposed to coronavirus.
"Manual contact tracing is very labor intensive and slow, so it's only really possible when case numbers are fairly low," Dr Hay said from London where he is in lockdown with his family.
"Certainly, if the uptake of the app is sufficiently high and the apps are accurate, then contact tracing could be a good strategy to compliment other interventions.
"We know that a substantial amount of transmission occurs before the development of symptoms, so the ability to easily look back at who an infected person contacted before they got sick is clearly a useful tool.
"The precision afforded by an automated app might be more reliable than someone's memory, and certainly the information is available much faster."
Originally published as World praise for Australia's COVIDSafe app