The COVIDSafe app has identified just 17 unique cases of COVID-19 since its release in April.

A senate estimates hearing yesterday morning opened with questioning about the app which was developed for around $5 million of taxpayer’s money, not to mention the estimated $60 million advertising campaign.

Associate Secretary at the Department of Health, Caroline Edwards, told the committee that in only 17 instances had the app data identified cases that weren’t otherwise picked up by existing contact tracing processes.

It has also found a total of 80 close contacts of COVID-positive people in NSW.

Those figures have slightly increased on the 14 unique cases and 68 close contacts were found by COVIDSafe that the Department of Health confirmed last month.

Edwards also revealed that some seven million Australians had “downloaded and registered” the app in the past six months.

“Now that Victoria has fully integrated use of the COVIDSafe app in its contact tracing, there’s been 1,851 individuals who have identified they have had the app who have been contacted by contact tracing,” Edwards told the senate committee.

“Obviously in the context of very strong restrictions, people aren’t having contact with many people but we think that puts us in an extremely good position to use the app going forward as restrictions ease in Victoria.”

At a press conference this morning celebrating Victoria's second day with no new COVID-19 cases or deaths from the disease, Victorian Chief Health Officer, Brett Sutton, said the app was currently being used by the health system.

"Clearly people have it, we're still asking about it and we would still do those downloads if it pings anyone who's a close contact," he said.

"It hasn't delivered as much as we would've liked.

'But as we've said all along, the settings that we've been in haven't allowed for a lot of close contacts.

"I'd still encourage people to have it on their phone because as we go to pubs and restaurants and a lot of strangers being potentially within 1.5 metres then you’d hope it comes into its own at that point.”

Value or bungle?

Less than five hours after its release, COVIDSafe was downloaded over a million times with the Prime Minister likening the app with “putting on sunscreen to go out into the sun”.

But the rollout was dogged by concerns over privacy as specific data protection legislation lagged weeks behind the app’s release, and ongoing conjecture over whether COVIDSafe even worked at all.

Health departments struggled to get it going with NSW Health admitted having “teething problems” with integrating the app into its existing contact tracing systems in May.

And despite Victorian officials announcing they had pulled data from the app, the disastrous second wave still hit, sending the state into harsh lockdown.

Labor criticised the government’s use of technology to aid contract tracing with Shadow Health Minister, Chris Bowen, calling it “a huge bungle”.

“The Government has spent up to $70 million on the COVIDSafe app, (most of it on marketing), for 17 traces.

“This is $4 million dollars per unique contact.

“The Government needs to put its money where its mouth is and tell the Australian people how they are going to make this app work.”