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Coronavirus Australia: Contact tracing concerns for Victorian businesses

The founder of a new virus tracing app and says the Victorian government has failed to provide clear instructions on contact tracing to businesses before they reopen.COVIDTracer launched last month and founder Brian Pham said it was already being used by 4000 companies across Australia, including McDonald’s franchises, retailers, law courts and councils.Goulburn Valley Health,…

The founder of a new virus tracing app and says the Victorian government has failed to provide clear instructions on contact tracing to businesses before they reopen.

COVIDTracer launched last month and founder Brian Pham said it was already being used by 4000 companies across Australia, including McDonald’s franchises, retailers, law courts and councils.

Goulburn Valley Health, based in Shepparton two hours north of Melbourne, is one of the 30 hospitals using it for contact tracing.

Mr Pham said it was “ludicrous” that the Victorian government had given businesses the option to record customer details on pen and paper or be slugged $280 a month to use its recommended tracing app Salesforce.

“This is not an affordable option for small businesses living through a recession,” he said.

A Victorian Department of Health and Human Services spokesman said Salesforce was chosen “because it demonstrated effectiveness in fighting COVID-19 around the world and is being used in Western Australia, South Australia and New Zealand”.

“DHHS is also using the COVIDsafe app in our work to contain the spread of the virus and encourages all Victorians to download the app to their phone,” the spokesman said.

Mr Pham said the majority of his customers were based in NSW because they didn’t think the state government’s app there was workable.

He said that this was because customers didn’t want to have to download the app from Service NSW before being able to check in.

“We’ve actually had countless businesses from NSW ask us to implement a solution for them because they think the (state government’s) is unworkable,” he said.

A NSW Health spokesperson told NCA NewsWire businesses had a choice to decide whether they used digital record keeping or manual pen and paper.

“Use of digital record keeping increases the speed with which NSW Health Contact,” the spokeswoman said.

“Digital record keeping is (also) generally more accurate than manual record keeping.”

Phong Nguyen, head chef and owner of Melbourne’s Imbue Food and Wine, said the business has been trialling the COVIDTracer app among its employees over the last two weeks in preparation for when lockdown ends.

He said the business ditched the government version because he couldn’t confidently tell customers where their data was going and had no idea it had a price tag attached.

“We didn’t realise the government app wasn’t free,” he told NCA NewsWire.

“But this is better because there’s much less confusion. We’re more knowledgeable about the product whereas with the government one we’re like … ‘well where does that (data) go?’”

He said customers would be sent an email before the restaurant reopened to explain how the COVIDTracer app worked.

“We can explain to customers properly about where their data is going,” Mr Nguyen said.

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Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus.