As social media debate rages on the subject of COVIDsafe, QNews asked Adjunct Professor Bill Bowtell, the architect of Australia’s successful response to the AIDS pandemic his thoughts on the app.
Privacy protection and transparency
Professor Bowtell is an Adjunct Professor at the University of New South Wales. He is a Strategic Health Policy Consultant especially related to HIV/Aids policy, global health, and development. He says Australians will only embrace COVIDsafe if the government first passes appropriate legislation and then properly explains the benefit of widescale contact tracing.
“With proper privacy protections locked in, the app is worth downloading. Contact tracing is a vitally important part of living with coronavirus over the indefinite future.
“Guarantees on privacy and data protection should be legislated. The government must include a sunset clause to ensure a time-limit on the retention of the data. The legislation must specifically outlaw third party access by other agencies.
“Above all, total transparency.
“A cross-party parliamentary committee should have oversight over COVIDsafe to ensure compliance with the legislation.
“The government must also abandon its absurd culture of secrecy.
“They won’t force the Australian people to do anything by merely passing laws. Australians need to understand the reasoning.
“My experience from the HIV epidemic is Australians will do the right thing when they understand it’s in their interest’
“That means a much more effective and imaginative public education program and proper assurance around the operation of COVIDsafe.
“Australians will then do what is needed to protect our society out of the goodness of their hearts. I have the utmost faith in them.”
— Bill Bowtell AO (@billbowtell) April 29, 2020
Professor Bowtell said it is still too early to make predictions about how the pandemic will pan out.
“COVID-19 is not the flu. People catch the flu, they then generally recover and move on with their lives. With COVID-19, patients recover but there are increasing reports that those recovering from serious infection may develop problems with their kidneys, lungs, or heart. We do not yet fully understand this disease.
“We are only at the beginning of the science of COVID-19.
“Relaxing current restrictions will require far more testing to accurately measure the effect of changes. Additionally, we need enhanced contact tracing to lock down cases.
“If we can we lock in recent gains, then we have more options.
“However, the virus can’t count. It just replicates itself. The more opportunity you give the virus to transmit from person to person the more risk there is of a situation where you can’t track the outbreak.”
Professor Bowtell said for now Australians still need to limit the people they come in contact with and the surfaces they touch.
“The virus spreads through coughs and sneezes but it’s also on lift buttons, balustrades, train poles, and glass windows.
“The more people you come in contact with and the more shared surfaces you touch, the greater your risk of contracting COVID-19.
“Sex involves close contact easily sufficient to transmit the virus. No one has yet explained to me a method of enjoying sex with another person without that close contact. Therefore, people must for now forgo sex with anyone but the people they are isolating with.”
Professor Bowtell told us no one should under any circumstances, ever take any medical advice from the current President of the United States of America. He also made the point on Twitter.
Just to be very clear, no-one interested in protecting the public health of Australians should take any notice whatsoever of the views of President Trump on the science of @COVID-19. @abcnews @mjrowland68 @MJA_Editor #coronavirusaus https://t.co/6vcj2GGC31
— Bill Bowtell AO (@billbowtell) April 23, 2020
Professor Bowtell said that while it’s easy to laugh away Trump’s advice, unfortunately, some people believe every word the man says. However, the professor did concede disinfectant could possibly cure the virus – if only because the virus cannot survive without a host.
Jumping off a building will also cure a headache. https://t.co/QBu0odzVYg
— Bill Bowtell AO (@billbowtell) April 25, 2020
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