COVID Update plus Sentinel Testing and what does the new COVID-19Trace App do?


NSW Health advise that there were 2,957 cases in NSW and 29 deaths as at 17 April.

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For comparison, last week NOTA reported there were 2,854 cases (up 103 this week) and 24 deaths.

Of the confirmed NSW cases, 276 are in the Hunter New England Health District (as at 18 April) up from 270 reported last week.

Hunter New England Health District reports that the infection rate is steady with no new cases reported in the preceding 24 hours.

Also, in NSW from 20 April, anyone caught coughing or spitting on any worker will face a $5000 on-the-spot fine.

Workers are now defined as everyone working during the COVID-19 pandemic, including supermarket, retail and transport workers.

This extends the tough measures originally introduced to protect health workers, police, pharmacists, paramedics and public officials.

Switching to a national level, there are now 6,606 cases and 70 deaths as at 3pm on 19 April.

For comparison, last week NOTA reported there were 6,313 cases and 59 deaths.

The number of national cases has now fallen by 293.

On 16 April, the National Cabinet agreed to a framework for the next steps in responding to the virus and the conditions for their eventual relaxation.

Such steps must be underpinned by a strong public health response that enables case and contact identification and management, supports continued surge capacity in healthcare, and a clear communications plan.

Contact identification and communication are also the drivers behind two Australian Government apps free for mobile devices.

Available already is the Coronavirus Australia app which communicates official information and advice about COVID-19.

This week, the government will release the COVID-19 Trace App.

The voluntary app aims to digitise the contact tracing process, currently done by hardworking people.

Tracing is critical for working out how a person contracted COVID-19 and who they have been in contact with while infectious.

It is a time consuming task, often identifying thousands of contacts.

The new free app will speed up this process.

If the app on your mobile has been within 15 minutes duration of other app users and within 1.5 metres, both mobiles will automatically swap phone numbers.

All numbers will be stored encrypted on both mobiles for 21 days.

If an app user then tests positive to COVID-19 at any time, they can provide consent for those numbers to be provided safely to health professionals.

Health professionals will then carefully and discreetly contact all the people you’ve been in contact with to trace the virus, support infected people and protect the community.

To be effective, 40 percent of the population must opt-in.

Effective use will support easing social restrictions.

Understandably, people are concerned about their privacy.

The App is going through a privacy impact assessment with the help of the Australian Cyber Security Centre.
It will not trace your location.

Im addition, the Australian and NSW governments are supporting increased sentinel testing
This involves selecting particular groups in the community for comprehensive testing, even if no symptoms are evident.

The process helps identify possible virus ‘hotspots’ in a systemic way.

Sentinel testing, for example, could be conducted on all health workers in the first instance.

COVID-19 updates are provided daily by the Australian Department of Health on 1800 020 080.

If you are concerned about symptoms, call your local doctor or call the Health Direct Line on 1800 022 222.


By Sandra MURRAY

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