New Bill to further protect information obtained for COVID-19 contact tracing

  • Since the introduction of mandatory COVID-19 contact registers at the end of last year, there have been more than 245 million scan-ins through the SafeWA app
  • New legislation introduced into Parliament today will establish a legislative framework to strengthen the integrity of information collected using the SafeWA app and hardcopy contact registers
  • The legislation provides extra assurance to the WA community that information obtained through contact registers is fully protected
  • The State Government will today introduce new legislation to strengthen the protection of information obtained through contact registers and the SafeWA app.

    Contact registers were mandated at the end of last year and are one of the tools Western Australia has in its fight against the spread of COVID-19.

    The information collected assists WA Health contact tracers to quickly help effectively contain any outbreak.

    The Protection of Information (Entry Registration Information Relating to COVID-19 and Other Infectious Diseases) Bill 2021 introduces a comprehensive legislative framework that strengthens the integrity of contact registers and provides a higher level of protection for the information collected.

    The new legislation definitively limits the use and disclosure of contact registration information to purposes relating to contact tracing, and mandates storage and disposal requirements.

    Currently, authorities are able to access information collected through SafeWA as permitted by law.

    In line with their obligation to keep the community safe, the WA Police Force has accessed contact registration information on two occasions while investigating two serious crimes.

    The system was introduced in the middle of the global pandemic and while access to this information was lawful, the WA Government’s intention was for contact registers to only be used for contact tracing purposes.

    This new legislation strengthens this commitment and guarantees individuals’ information collected through contact tracing tools to be used for one reason and one reason only – contact tracing.

    Information collected through the SafeWA app has never been able to be used for commercial purposes. This will remain the case under the new legislation.

    The Bill provides clarity for businesses and venues that are required to maintain a contact register.

    Existing measures require businesses to confidentially and securely store written contact registers, and ensure recorded details are not easily disclosed to other customers.

    Under the new legislation, businesses and venues will continue to be required to retain hardcopy contact registers for 28 days, unless they are required for longer for contact tracing purposes. After that period has passed, businesses and venues must destroy the records as soon as practicable.

    The legislation is intended to apply to all instances in which contact tracing may be required for a declared serious public health risk relating to an infectious disease.

    Contact register information plays a critical role in managing any outbreaks of COVID-19. It is imperative that Western Australians continue to check-in when visiting businesses and venues.

    This legislation will provide strong protection for any registration information that is collected.

    For more information about contact registers in Western Australia, please visit WA.gov.au.

    As stated by Premier Mark McGowan:

    “This pandemic is a one in 100-year event and during these extraordinary times, we have acted quickly to introduce measures to keep WA safe in a rapidly changing and unpredictable environment.

    “Our priority is to protect the health of Western Australians and our actions have kept WA one of the safest places in the world.

    “Contact registers are one the most effective tools we have in the fight against COVID-19. They assist health contact tracers and give confidence to manage restrictions in an outbreak.

    “The State Government has always been committed to protecting contact register information, and introducing this legislation strengthens the protections already included in the directions made by the State Emergency Coordinator.

    “We only have to look at previous cases here in WA, and outbreaks in other jurisdictions to see how critical contact registers are in reducing the spread of COVID-19 and the severity of restrictions and lockdowns.”

    As stated by Attorney General John Quigley:

    “This legislation ensures that information recorded on hardcopy contact registers or through the SafeWA app will only be used for contact tracing purposes.

    “It also provides more clarity for businesses and venues around storage and disposal requirements of hardcopy contact register information.

    “Existing requirements make it mandatory for businesses to securely keep contact details for at least 28 days, store information confidentially and securely, and ensure information is not easily disclosed to other patrons.

    “While we know businesses are already doing the right thing, this legislation formalises these requirements. It strikes an appropriate balance without compromising standard business practices and will not be overly burdensome.”

      

    As stated by Health Minister Roger Cook:

    “We have had to put measures in place that no one would have imagined two years ago. One of the critical measures in our State’s response to this pandemic is contact tracing.

    “Since mandatory contact registers were introduced in Western Australia last year, we have continued to improve and strengthen contact registration and tracing arrangements.

    “We put an enormous amount of faith in our contact tracers, and their effectiveness depends heavily on our use of contact registers as we go about our daily lives. 

    “I urge people to continue to do the right thing and check-in, and thank businesses and venues for their ongoing support.”

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