New app shows real-time updates on hot spots

A new ‘Covid map’ has shown the extent of Australia’s current coronavirus outbreak, offering real-time updates on hot spots across the country.

Researchers from the Australian National University and the University of Queensland have pulled together data from the most current contact tracing alert locations, presenting the information in an interactive, mobile and desktop-friendly map.

Experts say the CRISPER web app will aim to make pandemic information easier to access and digest for the Australian public.

Project lead, Colleen Lau, said the app would be useful for people who frequently travelled between different states.

“CRISPER aims to provide a source of accurate, reliable and spatially explicit real‐time information for Covid‐19,” Professor Lau said.

“Each state and territory’s website is structured differently and it can be difficult to find information quickly, so the CRISPER tools help by automatically updating information from health departments across the nation and making them more accessible.”

The web app pulls together information on current contact tracing locations from all states and territories, making them available in one place.

The app is accessible on desktops or smartphones, and users can also set up automatic alerts for locations that are important to them, such as new cases or contact tracing alerts in suburbs or postcodes where they live or work.

In addition to the regularly updated maps, location-based alerts provide daily situation updates, on request, to registered users.

The CRISPER project has also produced a suite of other publicly accessible tools for Covid‐19, including a national summaries dashboard, an interactive mapping tool for NSW, and an automatic alert system.

The researchers currently use publicly available postcode level data to create a national database of cases, deaths, testing, and contact tracing alert locations.

“The tools enable people to interact with the data and ask specific questions, such as the number of locally acquired cases in specific areas during a specific time period,” Professor Lau said.

“Our biggest challenge has been access to live official national data in a ready-to-use format. We could make our tools even more useful if we had better access to data.”

The project is designed to be accessible and helpful to the public and for epidemiologists and public health professionals, including GPs.

ANU epidemiologist Dr Meru Sheel said the app it provided a one-stop shop to review exposure sites.

“Having a one-stop shop can help speed up the process of contact tracing for epidemiologists and build outbreak mud maps to help understand transmission patterns.”

Australia’s Covid crisis blew out by another 35 cases on Wednesday, with an infectious miner plunging Alice Springs into lockdown and placing South Australia on alert.

Queensland recorded four new cases, which included the brother of a teen hospital worker who had not been vaccinated and spent 10 days in the community while infectious.

Victoria announced one locally acquired infection, a close contact in isolation, breaking a three-day run of zero cases.

NSW had the most positive tests, with 22 new cases although 11 were in isolation while infectious and all cases are linked.

Most concerning was the outbreak in SA. A man who tested negative after returning from a mine in the NT, later tested positive to Covid-19, as did several household family members.

The cases ended a 212-day Covid-free streak for SA.

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