Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference as he visits the Public Health Agency of Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, July 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

National COVID-19 exposure alert app now available to download

Right now, the app is only linked to Ontario’s health system

Canadians can now know if they’ve been near someone who tests positive for COVID-19 if they voluntarily download a federally-funded smartphone app.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the COVID Alert app Friday (July 31), telling reporters during a news conference that he’s downloaded it to his own phone while encouraging other Canadians to do the same.

“Health experts say that if enough people sign up, this app can help prevent future outbreaks of COVID-19 in Canada,” Trudeau said while visiting the Public Health Agency of Canada in Ottawa.

The app is currently only linked to Ontario’s health system. Atlantic provinces will soon be linking their health systems to the app. It’s unclear when or if B.C. will join.

The concept of the app was announced back in mid-June, drawing concern by privacy advocates across the country. At the time, B.C.’s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry questioned the benefit of a notification app that relies on many people agreeing to use it in order to be effective.

“I think there is probably a place for it. It’s not an answer in and of itself. It is a piece, a tool, that we might be able to use,” she said at the time.

READ MORE: B.C. hasn’t yet found any contact-tracing apps worth considering

On Friday, Trudeau confirmed the app doesn’t collect names, addresses or geolocation and instead uses random Bluetooth codes unique to each device to track where a person’s phone has been.

“I want to be clear: this app isn’t mandatory. It’s completely voluntary to download and to use,” he said.

Those who download and sign up to use the app will be notified if their phone has recently been near the phone of someone else who agrees to share within the app that they have tested positive for COVID-19.

If a person with COVID-19 signs into the app, a notification is sent to any other user whose phone has been within two metres of their phone for more than 15 minutes within the past two weeks.

The app is designed to then give health advice, such as calling 811 for those in B.C.

ALSO READ: Privacy watchdogs concerned about apps tracking COVID-19 patients

Some politicians and commentators have been skeptical of whether many will use the voluntary app. A Statistics Canada poll released Friday suggested that Canadians are on the fence about using contact tracing apps.

According to the results, about 25 per cent of respondents aged 25 to 64 said they’d likely take part in such an initiative, while another 25 per cent said the opposite.


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Canadian distillers petition government to lower excise tax rate

Distilleries, like Kimberley’s Bohemian Spirits, wish to see excise rate match United States’

RDEK lends support to group seeking a weir on Lake Koocanusa

Regional district to send a letter to province, feds supporting local concerns over reservoir water levels

Smoky skies bulletin issued for Kimberley, Cranbrook

The area is likely to be impacted by wildfire smoke over the next 24 to 48 hours: Interior Health

Kootenay Savings donates to regional health care initiatives

Kootenay Savings has donated $20,000 to health care efforts amid the COVID-19… Continue reading

Local shares his story of life and death on the St. Mary River

Aric Keane hopes sharing his story will show that even with experience, the river can be dangerous

578 British Columbians currently infected with COVID-19

Seventy-eight new cases confirmed in past 24 hours

Conservation seizes fawn illegally kept captive in Vancouver Island home

A Comox Valley resident charged and fined under the Wildlife Act

Pandemic could be driving more parents to get on board with flu shot: study

University of B.C. study gauges willingness for parents to vaccinate children for influenza

Watchdog clears Okanagan RCMP in death of man after arrest over alleged stolen pizzas

The man died in hospital after having difficulty breathing and broken ribs

Have you seen Berleen? B.C. pig destined for sanctuary goes missing

Berleen was less than two weeks from travelling to Manitoba when she vanished

Health Canada says several kids hospitalized after eating edible pot products

People warned not to store cannabis products where children can find them

‘It’s not just about me’: McKenna cites need to protect politicians from threats

Police investigation was launched after someone yelled obscenities at a member of McKenna’s staff

Michigan plans dedicated road lanes for autonomous vehicles

First study of its kind in the U.S. to figure out whether existing lanes or shoulders could be used

Most Read