How truly wonderful.

Someone from the Casula outbreak also came to Picton Hotel to gamble with their money, and apparently the lives of us who live nearby.

We opened most things too soon, including schools (our High School only a couple of weeks back) and especially absolute non-essentials like pubs and gambling venues, of all things.

Looks like these school holidays might be remarkably long.

Our eldest is in this year at this school. She was off school Monday with flu-like symptoms, got tested Tuesday, still waiting for results Wednesday which came back Negative.
She was still sick yesterday so stayed home - looks like she dodged a bullet this time.

I've ranted here before about schools opening too soon. Yet here we are again.

2019 with cold symptoms: toughen up with your (wo)man flu there princess and get back to work.

2020 with cold symptoms: line up (yesterday) masked to have a nurse in full protective gear insert possibly the longest cotton bud I've ever seen into your throat then BOTH your nostrils for what the nearby Doctor describes as "like someone is doing a byopsy on your brain".
Then self-isolate for 24-48 hours until you get your results via SMS.

Today: two negative results. And Will was an amazing trooper through it all, but will be happy to get back to school tomorrow.

Not looking forward to the next time cold symptoms inevitably appear. It's someone else's turn next.

I'd like to have a reasoned discussion about this please. Feel free to contribute any viewpoint.

Our kids aren't even back at school *this* week, because we wanted to have 14 days clear from the last round of easing restrictions to see what the statistics showed first. We were considering sending them back one day a week starting next week.

But that choice has now been taken away from us with the "good news" below from Gladys that schools go back full-time from next week.

There are plenty of comments about this on the article, mostly saying this is too soon, and mostly from protective mothers who are interestingly the ones most stretched with their children currently at home.

But what do you think? Are Liz and I being paranoid here? Should we just go with the flow?

It feels like our children are being used as guinea pigs, but I realise that is an emotional response.

Would love to hear from teacher friends, parents, and non-parents alike. Those directly affected, as well as anyone who isn't that may be banking on the economic flow-ons that are alleged will follow.

Please be nice. It's all we are trying to do as well.

Probably because I do IT stuff for a living, which includes IT Security, I've been asked by a few people will I be downloading the Australian Government's "CovidSafe" app?

This is an evolving topic, but I'd like to give a level-headed answer as of today. It might be different tomorrow.

First off, I'm not the sort of person that wants everything to return to "normal" urgently. Our planet is getting a well-deserved break from the worst ravages of humanity, and it would be great to take advantage of this time to make things better afterwards. So the argument that "just download the app already so I can go get my hair cut and play the pokies again" isn't really that compelling. I do watch on sadly at the personal impact on people's jobs, the arts scene, the cafe culture and our assumed freedom to roam. But I don't think downloading and installing an app that potentially takes away our liberties is worth it, until someone proves otherwise.

Contact tracing has been by all accounts EXCELLENT before this app. I'm still hunting for someone involved in this work actually asking for an app to fill some sort of gap in their capability, and describing what that gap might be. An actual epidemiologist says "This only complements, rather than replaces, the existing contact tracing process. All cases will still need to be interviewed. If only half the population have the app installed, then you would then expect roughly a quarter (0.5 x 0.5) of contacts to be detected by the app."


(Tech friends, this won't be a hyper-tech post. Go check out my Twitter if you want more details and sources).

So, there's three parts to this CovidSafe app:

  1. A terrible name. Just to make the point, the app is poorly named. Installing it won't make you safe from COVID-19. Poor marketing. but will make some people feel warm and fuzzy I imagine, which appears to be one of the key reasons for it being released
  2. A phone app that you download to your Android or Apple smartphone, assuming you have one and it is recent enough for the app to install. This software may (or may not) have the source code released soon so that we can be completely sure of what it does, but preliminary analysis shows that it seems fairly benign in day to day operation, at least until you elect to upload what it has captured to the backend server (see 3 below). The issue is that unless you do upload what this app captures to the backend server, the data on your phone is worthless. It doesn't help you, or contact tracers in any way.
  3. A backend server. This is the part that the government has been assuring us only the NSW Health officials have access to do, as it holds the output of everybody's apps.
    One issue is that it is hosted on Amazon Web Services, a generally excellent platform in wide use. But ultimately this backend software is running on physical servers that are not under your control. They aren't under NSW state government control. They aren't under Australian federal government control. There will be some staff working for Amazon (based in the US) who have sufficient administration rights to get to that data, and they are bound by United States laws, not Australian government promises.
    We have also heard no announcement of the source code for the backend being released, but it needs to be if we are to understand the end to end security of the system.

So, at this point I'll install the app when:

  • Someone who works in contact tracing can clearly articulate why it is needed. Note that being blackmailed into "thinking of the hard-working health workers" doesn't count, because as above this app "only complements, rather than replaces the existing contact tracing process".
  • Parties involved release source code for all components for review by independent researchers
  • The backend is moved to physical (and virtual) servers provided by a company bound by Australian laws and paying tax in Australia

As for the "but Facebook and Google already know everything about you anyway, so why not" argument:

  • These two companies are already working together to produce an app that does the same thing, but world wide. Given most of Australia's infection hasn't been through local community transmission but imported, wouldn't utilising that if you are comfortable with those companies tracking you be better anyway, rather than Australia building our own? They also do location-based app development stuff all the time, so are likely considerably more competent at it.
  • I try pretty hard to block that. You can disable much of this, and reduce or cease your use of those platforms

But like I opened with, who knows what tomorrow will bring.

Other great sources: