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Coronavirus App: what’s in it, how to use it and what’s missing
The Australian government has launched an official Coronavirus app to keep Australians informed about the virus. Here's how to download the app, the included features and what's missing.
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Finder's Coronavirus Information Hub
What is the Coronavirus Australia App?
The Coronavirus Australia App is the official mobile information hub of the Department of Health. The app is designed to provide up-to-date information about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as it relates to Australians and allows users to navigate the latest news in real time. (At least, that's the idea in theory.)
It includes official announcements from the Australian government, health advice to help stop the spread, a snapshot of the virus's current status in Australia and relevant contact information. There is also a symptoms checker and push notifications for important updates.
The app has undergone a quality assurance process to ensure that all information is safe, appropriate and relevant for Australians. The advice contained in the app is sourced from Australia's leading health organisations.
"[The app] will assist you to get accurate and timely information about what is being done by governments around the country to support you, as you and your family and your household and your community work through the difficult months ahead because of the coronavirus," Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement. It has been billed by the government as "a trusted place of advice and information".
How to get the Coronavirus Australia App on your phone or tablet
For Android devices, you will need Android Version 6.0 and up to download the app. For iOS users, iOS 12.0 or later is required. In other words, the app is compatible with most Android phones, tablets, iPhones and iPads released over the past few years.
What's in the Coronavirus Australia App
The Coronavirus Australia App is divided into six core sections represented by touch-enabled buttons:
- Symptom Checker: This contains a brief outline of coronavirus symptoms to watch out for, including a picture graph and a link to Healthdirect Australia advice on when to call 000.
- Advice: The app provides a list of official advisory pages from the Australian government website, including personal hygiene tips, how to protect yourself and others, social distances rules, a self-isolation guide, financial support and advice for travellers.
- Register Isolation: This is a tool that allows users who are in self-isolation to register with the government. This will provide government agencies with a better understanding of how self-isolation is impacting communities and respond accordingly. Registering is optional. Your personal information will be shared between Commonwealth, state and territory agencies but will not be disclosed overseas.
- News & Media: A list of official press releases, guides and opinion pieces from Australian government spokespeople.
- Current Status: An interactive map of confirmed coronavirus cases in Australia.
- Resources: A list of government resources and campaign assets for members of the public and Australian health professionals.
The emphasis of the app is on providing concise snippets of information, with links to additional government guides and advice as needed.
Coronavirus Australia App permissions
By downloading the app, the user agrees to give the government access to approximate location (network-based) and precise location (GPS and network-based). It can also receive data from the Internet, view network connections and prevent your device from sleeping – all pretty standard permissions for an app of this nature.
Coronavirus Australia App: What works
The Coronavirus Australia App does a good job of condensing a complex topic into a user-friendly information hub. In addition to official medical advice, it contains links to important government resources including financial advice for businesses and individuals.
The app has clearly been designed to work on as many devices as possible, with a clean and speedy interface. Despite its bare-bones approach, the app does contain the modern functionality you're probably used to. For example, the display auto rotates from portrait mode to landscape mode when you swivel the screen.
All in all, the app is fast, easy to use and well put together.
Coronavirus Australia App: What's missing
The Coronavirus Australia App currently has a 3.4 rating out of 5 on Google Play and a 4.5 rating out of 5 on the Apple App Store (based on 1,100 customer reviews at the time of writing). This works out to an average customer rating of 3.93 out of 5.
The main thing missing from the app is in-depth geographical information about coronavirus's spread. You can see the number of cases for each state and territory, but not by city or suburb. In addition, the Current Status section effectively buries the official death toll on a separate page to the map. This makes it difficult to keep track of this information.
Some users have complained that it takes several hours for new restrictions and announcements to appear on the app.
We would also like to have seen the government's Essential information summary added to the app, perhaps as a landing page. As it stands, you need to hunt for this information by clicking on separate links in the Advice section.
Compared to some COVID-19 apps released by other governments, the Australian app is noticeably lacking in interactive features.
For example, Apple has released a COVID-19 App in the US in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It contains a COVID-19 Screening Tool which asks questions about symptoms, travel and contact you've had with others. It would be great to see a similar tool in the Coronavirus Australia App. Hopefully an update will be coming soon.
Should you download the app?
In its current form, the Coronavirus Australia App is a good source of truth for coronavirus information released by the Australian government. The inclusion of push notifications is particularly useful, as you can download the app and wait to receive alerts instead of manually checking the app for fresh updates.
The Coronavirus Australia App is definitely worth having on your phone, if only to receive alerts about official government announcements. With that said, you should not use the app as a substitute for professional advice (nor any app, for that matter).
Until the app is fleshed out a little, we recommend supplementing it with third-party guides from trusted sources, such as Finder's Coronavirus Hub. But as a starting point, it has a lot of potential.
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