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Ailing SA COVID app needs a check-up


Premier Steven Marshall says technology is the “hero” of the State Government’s COVID-19 response, but as Stephanie Richards reports, travellers required to use its quarantine and symptom-checking app beg to differ.

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Another day, and error message #A0006 again pops up on my screen.

It’s been five days since I arrived in Adelaide from Canberra after a two-week stint covering federal politics, and despite daily attempts at switching my phone on and off and re-downloading the HealthCheck SA app, it still doesn’t work.

The technology is supposed to prompt new arrivals from high-risk regions to follow a schedule of symptom checks, COVID tests, and randomised check-ins using facial recognition to prove they are at their approved quarantine address.

But I can’t get past the app’s initial log-in page.

It’s a shame, because otherwise I found South Australia’s travel approval process relatively straightforward.

While in Canberra, I completed my EntryCheck SA approval form and within minutes received an email telling me I had the green light to come home, provided I got tested within 72 hours of arriving.

The email also told me that I needed to monitor and record any COVID-19 symptoms via the Government’s new HealthCheck SA app for 14 days.

“You do not need to download HealthCheck SA before you travel,” the email said.

“On the day of your arrival you must self-arrive and we will send you a code to activate the app.”

SA Health sent my code and a link to download the HealthCheck SA app as I walked up the gate ramp at Adelaide Airport on Thursday night.

I downloaded the app and entered my code, but the app dropped out before I could enter my personal details.

After several more attempts, the app showed an error message.

“There was an error occurred on fetching your address. This may be due to mobile data or WIFI problem (or) our server being temporarily unavailable,” the message said.

By that stage, SA Health’s COVID-19 information hotline had closed, so it wasn’t until 8am the next morning – after 30 minutes of listening to hold music – that I could flag the issue.

I was told by an apologetic call-taker that the app was experiencing technical difficulties and, in the meantime, I should monitor myself for symptoms and get tested if required.

It seems I’m not the only one having trouble using the app. After InDaily first flagged concerns about the technology malfunctioning, readers have sent screenshots of similar error messages, ranging from problems with the app’s server to submitting symptoms checks.

The app, which was developed by the Department of the Premier and Cabinet, currently rates an average of just 1.5 stars out of five on the Apple app store from over 200 reviews.

Recent reviews describe the technology as “terrible”, “annoying” and “buggy”.

But Premier Steven Marshall seemed none too concerned when asked about the glitches during a press conference yesterday.

“I think the IT has really been the hero, the backbone of what we’ve been able to achieve,” he told reporters.

“There have been some outages and there have been some glitches and we’ve tried to correct those as soon as possible.

“We’ve had to develop complex systems in rapid time to be able to facilitate what is going on in South Australia.

“If you had to do it manually, with people at the other end of the phone, there would be massive delays.

“There have been some delays with the IT, but I’m very satisfied.”

It’s worth noting that some users have reported positive experiences using the app, suggesting the technology can be an effective tool.

“I’ve been using the HealthCheck SA application to monitor symptoms per my entry requirements and it has been totally simple,” one happy reviewer commented.

“A very seamless experience from application through to arrival and using the app.

“Very grateful to be able to return to SA!!”

But when the app rates an average of just 1.5 stars, one has to question whether the technology truly is the “hero” of South Australia’s COVID-19 response.

I take comfort knowing that when I travelled, the ACT was only registered as a “level two” risk for SA, meaning I didn’t have to quarantine or get tested on arrival.

Had I been forced to use the app to quarantine or follow a testing schedule, it might have been worse.

After I contacted the Department of the Premier and Cabinet for comment, I was offered the opportunity to have a technician sit down and fix the problem for me.

I was told people who experience technical problems using the HealthCheck SA app should contact SA Health’s COVID-19 hotline on 1800 253 787 between 8am and 8pm and provide as much information as possible so that the department can fix the errors.

People should check if they are using the most recent versions of the HealthCheck SA and mySA Gov apps and that their phone operating systems are up to date.

“Since our borders reopened on 23 November, the (HealthCheck SA) app has been successfully used by many, many thousands of people returning to and visiting South Australia,” a spokesperson said.

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