HomeService NSW sends 700,000 coronavirus exposure notices through obscure app feature

Service NSW sends 700,000 coronavirus exposure notices through obscure app feature

You may have been exposed to the coronavirus without knowing it – because the warning is too hard to find.

The NSW government has sent out hundreds of thousands of coronavirus exposure alerts without making sure the affected people actually see the warning.

Instead of letting people know through a push notification on their phones, the information is simply made available under an obscure tab inside a contact tracing app, officials said on Wednesday.

A person who has used the Service NSW smartphone app to “check in” to a venue at the same time as an infected stranger would need to manually open the app, click a button labelled “Covid safe check-in”, and hit the “history” tab to see the information.

The exposure alert would appear as a red icon next to the relevant venue.

Service NSW have issued more than 700,000 such red icons between September 30 and October 25. It’s unclear how many people actually saw the warnings.

“The existing Covid-19 case alert feature makes it easy for customers to identify if they have attended a venue on the same day as a positive Covid-19 case through a red icon in their check-in history on the Service NSW app,” a Service NSW spokesman said.

The minister responsible, Customer Service and Digital Minister Victor Dominello, copped criticism for the feature at a budget estimates hearing on Thursday.

He acknowledged it had taken too long but said push notifications would be rolled out from Friday.

“In a perfect world, you would pick this product off the shelf and deliver it from the sky, but the reality is it had to be built on, and it had to be prioritised,” Mr Dominello said.

The Service NSW spokesman said the app’s case alerts were “in addition” to NSW Health contact tracing efforts and that the health department would contact people directly if they needed to self-isolate.

“When residents receive a notification or see a Covid-19 case alert in their check-in history, they only need to monitor for symptoms and get tested if they feel unwell,” the spokesman said, adding that recommendation was based on health advice.

Labor’s digital spokeswoman Yasmin Catley said the government was “all over the place” when it comes to the app.

“Last year they made it mandatory for all businesses and venues to assist in contract tracing – yet at the same time failed to roll out push notifications to advise people if they had visited an exposure site,” she said.

“Instead it has taken more than a year for the government to roll out this important feature.”


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