NSW, Victoria and ACT will soon test a combined, decentralised contact tracing system.

The states are reportedly taking up one of the recommendations put forward in a national contact tracing review that looks at ways to combat the COVID-19 pandemic in the absence of a vaccine.

The review proposed a decentralised system for the exchange of data between state and territory contact tracing systems, as well as the Commonwealth’s National Incident Room, in real-time.

It proposes combining this with other data from airline and shipping passenger information manifests and other relevant government agency databases.

“The data exchange would allow contact tracing teams to search, request, share and transfer case and contact tracing data between states and territories,” the review states.

“Contact tracing teams would also be able to quickly access airline and shipping passenger contact tracing information for international and domestic travel, registries of test results, and contact details from relevant government data systems.”

In the future, it says the system could be linked to the Australian Immunisation Register to include a “relevant vaccine status”.

“The mechanism we’ve recommended … is a very light touch, but highly efficient approach,” Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel said on Friday.

“All it does is open up a communication pathway between the digital system in one state or territory and the digital system in another, and also – where appropriate – Commonwealth government databases just for contact tracing information.”

Dr Finkel said the proposed exchange could respond to requests for contact tracing information, but “data never gets stored”.

“So there’s no need to reconcile two disparate databases, no large target for cyber-attack, so intrinsically, and certainly, if done properly, should be very, very secure,” he said.

NSW, Victoria, the ACT and the Commonwealth will test the exchange proposal.

“As we go to a more mobile society and a fully active economy, [states] need to be confident that they can share information about people who are travelling from jurisdiction to jurisdiction,” Dr Finkel said.

“Now at the moment, the problem is not manifest, we don’t have a serious issues, but we need to be preparing.”