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2020-04-26

Australia is launching a controversial COVID-19 tracking application as some states begin easing rules

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Australia and neighboring New Zealand have been able to control their coronavirus outbreaks, but officials in both countries are still worried about the risk of further flaring.

"We win, but we haven't yet won, "Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt said in a televised briefing announcing the launch of the app

The app, based on the TraceTogether software of Singapore, uses Bluetooth signals to log when people are close together. Civil liberties groups have criticized it as an invasion of privacy.

The Australian government, which wants to register at least 40% of the population to make this effort efficient, says that the voluntary application, which does not track locations, is safe.

The contact data stored in the app will allow health officials to track people who are potentially exposed to infections.

"It's going to help us get back to normal and the Australian way of life," Hunt said. "Nobody has access to it, not even you... Access to that data can only be given to a state public health official.

A legislative directive that ensures that Parliament is to be proposed in May, the Ministry of Health said on Sunday on the app website.

Some countries, including South Korea and Israel, use high-tech methods to trace the locations of people via telephone networks, although such centralized surveillance approaches are seen in many countries as invasive and unacceptable.

Confidence in the governments of Australia and New Zealand has increased since the beginning of the pandemic, opinion polls show that leaders of two countries–ideologically opposite–applauded their management in the suppression of coronavirus.

In both countries the increase in new cases was now less than 1% for two weeks, much lower than in many other countries.

On Sunday, Australia's Queensland and Western Australia states said this week they would ease some social dissociation rules to permit larger public meetings outdoors, among others, but Victoria officials, second. The most popular state said it was not ready to relax the hardline restrictions.

On Sunday, Australia reported 16 new coronavirus cases, totaling 6,703 according to data from the health ministry. There were eighty-three deaths.

Four new cases were confirmed in New Zealand, bringing the total to 1,121. Eighteen people died, data showed from the health ministry.

New Zealand will begin to ease some of the strictest lockdown measures in the world on Tuesday and will soon be launching the tracing application, but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has warned that it will not be the only panacea.

"We were very clear from the very outset that there was no silver bullet tracking app," said Ardern earlier this month.

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