COVIDSafe app

The Australian Government has released a new app, COVIDSafe.

The COVIDSafe app speeds up contacting people exposed to coronavirus (COVID-19), helping to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The COVIDSafe app is completely voluntary. Downloading the app is something you can do to protect you, your family and friends and save the lives of other Australians. The more Australians connect to the COVIDSafe app, the quicker we can find the virus.

Download the app

Apple app store for iPhones

Google play for Android phones

How do you set up COVIDSafe?

  1. Download the COVIDSafe app.
  2. Register using a name, mobile phone number, age range and postcode.
  3. Turn on Bluetooth®.
  4. Check that COVIDSafe is active when you are out or are likely to come into contact with others.

COVIDSafe app help

For troubleshooting and answers to your questions about the COVIDSafe app, you can call the helpline on 1800 020 080.

COVIDSafe questions

Why does Australia need a contact app?

  • The app will help keep you, your family and your community safe from further spread of coronavirus through early notification of possible exposure.
  • It will be one of the tools we will use to help protect the health of the community by quickly alerting people who may be at risk of having contact with the virus.
  • Use of the app will help us to move more quickly to reduce restrictions than would otherwise be possible.

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What will the app do?

  • The contact app will allow health officials to tell you if you have come into close contact with someone who is diagnosed with COVID-19 (coronavirus).
  • If you become infected with coronavirus, the app will assist health officials to notify people you have been in close contact with so they can self-quarantine and get tested.
  • This will speed up current manual processes and make it quicker to stop the spread of the virus, particularly if restrictions are eased.
  • The app operates on a person’s phone as they go about their day.
  • It securely logs the encrypted reference codes of devices of other people who are using the app who have been in close proximity to you.
  • The close contact information can only be accessed by relevant health officials if there has been a positive case to help alert those who may need to be tested.
  • The app will never track your location.

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Why should I use the contact app?

  • Receiving early notification that you may have been exposed to coronavirus means you can be tested or go into quarantine so your health and others’ is protected.
  • Without the assistance of technology, finding people who may have been exposed to the virus relies on people being able to recall who they have been around and knowing the details of every individual they have been in close contact with. In many cases, we don’t know the names and contact details of those we’ve been in close contact with (for example, at the supermarket or on the train).
  • The contact app uses technology to make this process faster and more accurate.
  • The contact app has been developed to ensure your information and privacy is strictly protected.

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Do I have to use the contact app?

  • No. Its use is entirely voluntary, but using it will help save lives.
  • For the App to work, it must be running in the background on your phone. Other apps can be used at the same time.
  • You can delete the app from your phone at any time. This will delete all the app information from your phone.
  • At the end of the Australian pandemic, users will be prompted to delete the app from their phone. This will delete all app information on a person’s phone. The information contained on the highly secure information storage system will also be destroyed at the end of the pandemic.

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How will the contact app work?

  • A user voluntarily downloads the app from the app store. The user registers to use the app by entering a name, phone number and postcode, and selecting their age range. They will receive a confirmation SMS text message to complete the installation of the app. On the basis of this information, an encrypted reference code is generated for the app on that phone. That code is changed every 2 hours to make it even more secure.
  • The app uses Bluetooth to look for other devices that have the app installed. It takes a note when that occurs, securely logging the other users’ encrypted reference code. The date and time, distance and duration of the contact are generated on the user’s phone and also recorded. The location is not recorded.
  • This information is securely encrypted and stored on the phone.
  • The app uses a rolling 21 day window to allow for the maximum 14 day incubation period, and the time taken to confirm a positive test result. The rolling 21 day window allows the app to continuously note only those user contacts that occur during the coronavirus incubation window. Contacts that occurred outside of the 21 day window are automatically deleted from the user’s phone.
  • The contact information on the phone is not accessible by anyone (including the user of the phone), until the user is diagnosed with coronavirus and they upload the contact information to a highly secure information storage system.
  • The uploaded information enables state or territory health officials to contact the user and close contacts to provide advice on actions they should take to manage their health.
  • This cycle continues if a user of the app who was a close contact subsequently tests positive.

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Who can use COVIDSafe?

  • COVIDSafe can be downloaded and used by anyone who has an Australian mobile number and a Bluetooth®-equipped Android or iOS smartphone. You need to be connected to Wi-Fi or mobile data to download the app, but Wi-Fi is not needed for the app to work.
  • Check the minimum requirements for COVIDSafe to work.

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What happens if I test positive to coronavirus?

  • If you test positive to coronavirus, state and territory health officials will ask you who you have been in contact with.
  • If you have the COVIDSafe app, you can agree to the information in the app on your phone being uploaded to a highly secure information storage system to help with this process.
  • Alternatively, you can give your permission to use the information as soon as you are diagnosed with COVID-19. Then health authorities will contact you, if they haven’t already, to start the process of finding contacts.
  • Either way, health authorities can only access the information if you give them permission to do so. State and territory health officials will then:
    • decide which of the contacts captured by the app need to be called to let them know they may have been exposed
    • offer advice on next steps, including what to look out for, when, how and where to get tested, and what to do to protect friends and family from exposure.
  • Health officials will not tell anyone they contact that you have COVID-19.
  • If you have coronavirus, the app will continue to gather information for a further 14 days to ensure any additional close contacts during this time are notified.

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If a user receives a close contact notification, will they be advised who the contact was?

  • No. This will operate in the same way as existing contact processes run by State and Territory health officials.
  • A phone call will be made to users who have had close contact with another user once that user is independently confirmed as having COVID-19. This phone call will be made by State or Territory health officials.
  • Close contact information is only available to State and Territory health officials once a user is confirmed as coronavirus positive, and the user securely uploads the information stored on their phone.
  • These calls will only be made to close contacts that have occurred in the 21 days before the information has been uploaded. This early notification allows users to quickly self-quarantine and seek medical attention.

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Who is a “close contact” for notification purposes?

State and Territory public health officials will have the contact information for other users who have been within approximately 1.5 metres of the infected user for 15 minutes or more.

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How does the app know a “close contact” has occurred?

  • When two (or more) app users come into close proximity their phones exchange Bluetooth signals and make a series of ‘digital handshakes’.
  • The app records the encrypted reference code, time and proximity of two users, through the strength of the Bluetooth signals. This allows the approximate distance between the users and the duration the contact occurred to be determined once the data is uploaded to the highly secure information storage system.
  • The proximity for a close contact is approximately 1.5 metres, for a period of 15 minutes or more.
  • To be effective, users should have the app running in the background of their phone whenever they are coming into contact with people. Users of the app will receive daily notifications to ensure the app is running.

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How does COVIDSafe measure distance and duration of contact?

  • COVIDSafe uses Bluetooth® received signal strength indicator (RSSI) values to measure the signal strength between devices. Calibrated RSSI values are used to estimate the approximate distance between users during an encounter.
  • COVIDSafe estimates the approximate duration of an encounter between two users to determine whether a user has had probable exposure to coronavirus.

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Why does the app only notify close contacts in the last 21 days?

  • The average incubation period for someone who contracts COVID-19 is typically 5 to 6 days, however the World Health Organization currently estimate that the incubation period can be up to 14 days.
  • The app uses a rolling 21 day window to allow for the maximum 14 day incubation period, and the time taken to confirm a positive test result.
  • The rolling 21 day window allows the app to continuously monitor only those user contacts that occur during the coronavirus incubation window.
  • Contacts that occurred outside of the 21 day window are automatically deleted from the user’s phone.

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What happens if you get in close contact with someone diagnosed with coronavirus?

  • If a person tests positive to coronavirus and they are a COVIDSafe user, and your device noted that you were in close proximity to them recently, you may be contacted on the mobile number you registered with COVIDSafe, alerting you to the potential exposure.
  • If you believe you have come into contact with a person who has tested positive, but you haven't been contacted, the recommendation is to self-isolate, monitor your own health, and take care.
  • Find out if you need to get tested by using the coronavirus (COVID-19) symptom checker.
  • Follow the guidelines on self-isolation.
  • If you test positive for coronavirus, a health official will contact you. You will be asked to voluntarily upload your close contact information to the secure server. This will help health officials identify people who may have had close contact with you. Doing so is a crucial part of alerting others who may be at risk and could save lives.

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Is there a risk that people may report false positives?

Information collected by the app that is uploaded to the highly secure information storage system will only be accessed by state and territory health officials once a user has a positive diagnosis. This positive diagnosis must be verified by health officials.

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What information is captured by the contact app?

  • The app only uses the information that’s needed to alert close contacts and allow health officials to make contact with them.
  • This information is only the encrypted reference code, date, time, duration and proximity of contacts.
  • At registration, the user provides their name, phone number and postcode, and selects their age range, which generates an encrypted code
  • All further information about contacts collected by the app is encrypted and stored within the app on the phone. Users cannot access contact information stored on their phone.
  • If the user deletes the app, all contact information is deleted.
  • The contact information on the phone is not accessible by anyone, unless the user is diagnosed with coronavirus and they upload the contact information to a highly secure information storage system.

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Can the app be used to track a user or contact?

  • No. It does not record an individual’s location or movements. The app only records that a contact occurred to allow health officials to contact those users to enable them to quickly self-quarantine and/or seek medical attention.
  • The app cannot be used to enforce quarantine or isolation restrictions or any other laws.
  • Commonwealth and state/territory law enforcement agencies will not be allowed to access any information from the app, unless investigating misuse of that information itself.

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Why does the app ask for my mobile phone number, name and postcode?

  • A mobile number is needed to activate an account and to allow health officials to contact you if they need to.
  • If you are diagnosed as positive for coronavirus as a registered COVIDSafe user, a health official will contact you to request voluntary upload of your information.
  • The name you registered with will be used during the call to verify you are the owner of the mobile number. You do not need to give your real name if you prefer not to.
  • The postcode you enter upon registration will be used to ensure the health official is from South Australia.

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Can a user or health official view the information stored on the phone including the contact log?

No. All information that is stored on the phone is digitally encrypted and cannot be accessed or viewed by any users or health officials.

Contact information older than 21 days on your phone is automatically deleted.

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How will the information be stored?

  • When a person registers the app, a name, verified mobile number, age range and postcode are registered and encrypted on the highly secure information storage system. They are provided an encrypted hash code, which is the only data shared as part of the Bluetooth ‘digital handshake’.
  • The digital handshakes collected by the contact app are stored locally on the user’s phone.
  • Contact information only leaves the users phone if the user is diagnosed as having coronavirus.
  • Contacts that are older than 21 days are automatically deleted from the phone.
  • The information is uploaded to a highly secure information storage system. Only authorised state and territory health officials will have access to the contact information. State and territory health officials will only have access to view the contact information collected by people from their state or territory diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • In accessing and using the uploaded data, health officials will be required to comply with the Australian Privacy Principles and all applicable data protection and information security obligations. It will only be able to be used for alerting individuals if they have come into contact with a person who has contracted coronavirus.

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How does this new app relate to the Australian Government Coronavirus App and WhatsApp service?

The app is a separate, new app. Its sole purpose is to improve the ability of health officials to quickly alert and contain virus outbreaks in the community.

The Australian Government Coronavirus App and WhatsApp services are information services. They were developed to ensure the community has access to timely and accurate information about coronavirus.

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How does the contact app relate to other contact apps that have been released?

This app is the only contact app that has been developed by the Australian Government Department of Health to ensure your data and privacy are protected. Other contact apps do not have the support of the Australian Government.

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What protections are in place for children using the app?

  • Children can download and use the COVIDSafe app. While, thankfully, children seem to be less affected by COVID-19, tragically there have been cases overseas of young people dying from the virus.
  • The Government expects parents and guardians will provide the same care and guidance to their children with respect to the COVIDSafe app as they do when their children download any other app that collects personal information. It will be important, for example, for parents to talk to their children about the app and how it works.
  • When a child downloads the app they will be prompted to confirm they have the consent of their parent or guardian before they proceed.
  • If a child tests positive to COVID-19 and is running the app on their device, consent will be sought from the child’s parent or guardian before uploading their information to the secure information storage system.
  • If a child is contacted because they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, the health official will ask to speak to the child’s parent, guardian or another responsible adult before providing the necessary information and advice.

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Will legislation be required for the app to operate, or for individuals’ privacy to be protected?

  • No. Use of the app is voluntary.
  • Collection and use of information from the app is consent based and consistent with the Privacy Act and Australian Privacy Principles.
  • To further strengthen the app’s privacy arrangements the Health Minister made a Determination under the Biosecurity Act to protect people’s privacy and restrict access to app data to state and territory health authorities for contact tracing.
  • Under that Determination, it will be a criminal offence to use any app data in any other way. It will also be a criminal offence for someone to be refused to enter a premises, participate in an event or receive a service for failing to use the app.
  • These provisions will also be enshrined in legislation when Parliament returns in May.

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What is the relationship between Amazon Web Services and the Australian Government?

  • Amazon Web Services (AWS) has a contract with the Australian Government to provide a secure protected-level cloud service for the storage of encrypted information. Information is uploaded to this storage system once a COVIDSafe user has tested positive for COVID-19 and agreed to the information from the app on their phone being used.
  • Under the contract, AWS has no access to the encrypted information from COVIDSafe.

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Could Amazon Web Services (AWS) send information from the COVIDSafe app overseas?

  • No. The determination made by the Federal Minister for Health under the Biosecurity Act explicitly states COVIDSafe app information must be stored in Australia.
  • It is a criminal offence to transfer COVIDSafe app information to any country other than Australia or to use the information for any purpose other than finding close contacts of someone diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • The Australian Government already uses AWS for many other purposes and requires them to keep Australian data in Australia.

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What information is being collected and what is not being collected?

  • Information collected includes registration information, contact information and app logs:
    • Information collected at registration includes name, mobile number, age range and post code;
    • Contact information includes encrypted reference code, date and time, proximity and duration of contact; and,
    • App logs include app performance and troubleshooting data, including errors if any.
  • The app does not collect any other additional information, such as location information, movement information etc.

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What consequences are there if a person using the app tests positive for COVID-19 but then refuses to provide consent to upload their data?

  • As is currently the case, people that test positive for COVID-19 will be required by state or territory health officials to provide their contact information.
  • The app is a more efficient and faster way of doing that, and can provide additional information of contacts that they may not know, such as the person standing next to them at the supermarket.
  • Whether or not they use the app information, they will still have to go through the current process of recalling all their recent contacts and providing that to their state or territory health officials. The app adds to this process and makes it quicker.

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How does the app know a "close contact" has occurred?

  • When two (or more) app users come into close proximity their phones exchange Bluetooth signals and make a series of ‘digital handshakes’.
  • The app records the encrypted reference code, time and proximity of two users, through the strength of the Bluetooth signals. This allows the approximate distance between the users and the duration the contact occurred to be determined once the data is uploaded to the highly secure information storage system.
  • The proximity for a close contact is approximately 1.5 metres, for a period of 15 minutes or more.
  • The app will poll every minute for new connections and to record the duration of existing connections.
  • A filtering process on the highly secure information storage system separates information that meets the close contact requirements and makes it available to the relevant state and territory health officials.
  • To be effective, users should have the app running in the background of their phone whenever they are coming into contact with people. Users of the app will receive daily notifications to ensure the app is running.

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What happens after the pandemic?

At the end of the Australian COVID-19 pandemic, users will be prompted to delete the COVIDSafe app from their phone. This will delete all app information on a person’s phone. The information contained in the information storage system will also be destroyed at the end of the pandemic.

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Can I delete the app if I no longer want to use it?

You can delete the COVIDSafe app from your phone at any time. This will delete all COVIDSafe app information from your phone. The information in the secure information storage system will not be deleted immediately. It will be destroyed at the end of the pandemic.

If you would like your information deleted from the storage system sooner, you can complete the request data deletion form.

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How is my privacy going to be protected?

  • Your information and privacy is strictly protected.
  • The Health Minister has issued a Determination under the Biosecurity Act to protect people’s privacy and restrict access to app data to state and territory health authorities for contact tracing.
  • It will be a criminal offence to use any app data in any other way.
  • Other agencies, including law enforcement, will not be able to access the information unless investigating misuse of that information itself.
  • These provisions will be enshrined in legislation when Parliament returns in May.
  • The app also has a range of privacy and security safeguards built in, including no collection of geolocation data and secure encryption. Read the COVIDSafe Privacy Policy for details on how personal information collected in the app is handled.
  • An independently developed Privacy Impact Assessment detailing the App’s compliance with the Privacy Act and Australian Privacy Principles has been made publicly available. See the Privacy Impact Assessment Report and our Agency Response.

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Can I be told I have to download the app?

  • Downloading the COVIDSafe app is completely voluntary. It is against the law to require another person to download, or operate, the COVIDSafe app.
  • In particular, a person (including a business or company) cannot:
    • refuse entry into, or continue, a contract or arrangement with another person (including a contract of employment) if they don’t have the app
    • disadvantage an employee if they don’t have the app
    • refuse to allow another person to enter premises if they don’t have the app
    • refuse to allow another person to participate in an activity if they don’t have the app
    • refuse to receive or provide goods or services if someone doesn’t have the app
  • For example, your employer must not require the download or use of the COVIDSafe app as part of your employment, or disadvantage you if you refuse to download the app. An operator of a business must not refuse entry to you just because you have not downloaded or used the app.

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What’s the penalty for trying to force someone to download the app?

  • Contravening an emergency determination made by the Federal Minister for Health under the Biosecurity Act 2015 is a criminal offence punishable by a maximum sentence of 5 years’ imprisonment, or a fine.

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What should I do if I'm told I have to download the app?

  • The COVIDSafe app enables faster and more comprehensive contact tracing for people exposed to coronavirus (COVID-19) and all Australians are encouraged to download it to help protect themselves, their family and community.
  • However, it is voluntary and you cannot be told it is compulsory — regardless of your decision.
  • If your employer or service provider purports to require you to download, or use, the COVIDSafe app you can:

1. Explain to the person who is telling you to download or use the app that:

  • downloading or using the app is voluntary
  • The Federal Minister for Health has made a determination under the Biosecurity Act 2015 which prohibits anyone making another person download or use the app
  • in some circumstances this could amount to a criminal offence.

2. Contact the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080.

3. A breach of the Biosecurity Act determination is an offence. If an offence has been committed, you can contact SAPOL or report a crime to the Australian Federal Police.

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Can I register with an overseas phone number or location?

  • If you have an overseas phone number, you cannot register for the COVIDSafe app, even if you live in Australia. We are looking at ways to fix this issue.
  • If you have an:
    • Android device and your Google Play account is set to an overseas location, you will not be able to download the app
    • iOS device and your Apple account is set to an overseas location, you will not be able to find the app in the App Store
    • We are looking at ways to make the app available in the App Store for other countries.
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Why do I get ‘invalid phone number’ when I try to register?

  • There are several reasons you may get this message when you try to register. The troubleshooting tips below can resolve most issues:
    • the app will not work on a land line telephone, only on a mobile
    • check the number you entered is correct — you can only use Australian mobile phone numbers that start with ‘04’ and contain 10 digits (for example, 0400 000 000)
    • go to the previous screen and check you have answered all questions correctly — make sure you don’t use numbers or symbols like '?' or '.'
    • try entering your mobile number with and without the leading zero — the app sometimes needs a different format
    • try turning off the Wi-Fi on your phone for the registration process and using mobile data instead
    • go back to the app and tap the ‘Resend PIN’ link — your PIN may have expired

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Can I use the app on an older device?

  • For Android, you need Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) or higher. We are collating the full list of Android devices the app will work with.
  • For iOS, you need iOS 10 or higher. You will need an iPhone 5S model phone or higher.
  • We do not currently support other mobile operating systems.
  • COVIDSafe works on as broad a range of handsets as possible. However, there are limits as to how far back a new app build can go for reasons such as security and Bluetooth capability.

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Why doesn’t the app work for me?

  • If you have checked everything and the app still doesn’t work, you may need to update the operating system on your phone.
  • Uninstall the app and follow your normal phone procedure to check for updates and install. Once complete, revisit the app store and reinstall the app.

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What is the ‘Upload my information’ button on the homepage of the app screen?

  • You only need to press the ‘Upload my information’ button at the bottom of the screen in your COVIDSafe app, if you have tested positive for coronavirus.
  • You will not be able to upload your information unless a state or territory health official contacts you. They will give you the PIN you need to upload your information and help you with the process.
  • The information written in the ‘Upload my information’ section is only applicable to you if you have been asked to complete this section by a state or territory health official.

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How do you ensure that COVIDSafe is working correctly?

  • Android users: COVIDSafe works best when it is running, which means you can use your phone as normal without having to open or check COVIDSafe.
  • iOS users: Keep COVIDSafe running and notifications on when you're out and about, especially in meetings and public places.

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How do you know if COVIDSafe is active?

  • Android users: You'll see a sticky notification on your device's Notifications panel that tells you 'COVIDSafe is active'.
  • iOS users: If your app hasn't been active for at least 24 hours, you'll get a notification with instructions on how to troubleshoot. Another way to tell if your app is active is to look out for a small ripple in the device image on your app's home page each time your device detects another device with COVIDSafe installed.

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What do you do if the app asks you to register again?

  • If you have registered successfully once, you should not need to register again.
  • If COVIDSafe is asking you to register again, select the back button (top left) and it should return to the 'COVIDSafe is active' screen.

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Why does COVIDSafe need location permission on Android and not on iOS?

  • Android/Google requires all apps that request access to Bluetooth® to also obtain location permission. As a result, COVIDSafe on Android asks for location permissions because they are needed for Bluetooth® permissions. COVIDSafe does not store or use location data on Android.

• For more information, read the Android developer guide.

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Battery life and mobile data

How long should I keep COVIDSafe running for?

  • You should keep the app running with full app permissions all the time, but especially when you leave your house or have other people in your home. This means keeping Bluetooth® and push notifications on.
  • You can disable COVIDSafe's functionality any time by turning the app's Bluetooth® permission off or deleting the app.

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Will keeping COVIDSafe running all the time drain your battery quickly?

  • Battery consumption on tested devices is only marginally greater with the app running, particularly on devices that are already Bluetooth®-enabled.

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How much mobile and Wi-Fi data does COVIDSafe consume?

  • The app uses less than 1MB of data per day. It does not need to be connected continuously to the Internet to work, but it does need to connect occasionally to retrieve new temporary IDs from the server. This helps to protect your privacy and to collect anonymised analytics data.

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Bluetooth® settings

How do I switch Bluetooth® on?

  • You need to make sure Bluetooth® is switched on for COVIDSafe to work.
  • COVIDSafe will tell you if your Bluetooth® is turned off. It will send you a message or you can check in the app itself. If Bluetooth® is off, you need to turn it on. You also need to allow the app to use your Bluetooth®. You can do both of these things in your phone’s settings.

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Do you need to keep your phone's Bluetooth® turned on all the time?

  • COVIDSafe won’t work if Bluetooth® is turned off. You need to make sure you have Bluetooth® on when you leave your home or have other people in your home.

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Will COVIDSafe be affected if you use other Bluetooth® devices with your phone (for example, Bluetooth® headphones, Bluetooth® sync with fitness watches)?

  • No. Other features or devices that require Bluetooth®, such as wireless speakers, wireless headphones or smart watches, can be used normally.