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

Nathan Cullen, right, looks on as Wet’suwet’en hereditary leader Chief Woos, also known as Frank Alec, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relation, Carolyn Bennett and B.C. Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser address the media in Smithers, B.C., Sunday, March 1, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
10 Gitxsan hereditary chiefs call for BC NDP to remove Cullen as Stikine candidate

Ten Gitxsan hereditary chiefs have called for the firing of NDP candidate… Continue reading

FILE - Nathan Cullen speaks to media in Smithers, B.C., Friday, February 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, Cullen apologize for Stikine candidate’s comments about Haida candidate

Nathan Cullen had made insensitive comments about Roy Jones Jr. Cheexial

Joe Bramsleven and partner Tammy Wilson (centre) await election results with campaign manager Scott Groves, right, and his wife Lori Ann Groves at Boston Pizza Oct. 15. (Deb Meissner photo)
Atrill defeats Bramsleven for mayor in landslide

Mika Meyer replaces Atrill as the sixth councillor

Stikine provincial election candidates (clockwise from top left): Nathan Cullen, NDP; Darcy Repen, Rural BC Party; Rod Taylor, Christian Heritage; and Gordon Sebastian, BC Liberals.
‘Where is Annita McPhee?’: Cullen under fire from opening salvo of all-candidates forum

Four Stikine candidates spar during online debate from Prestige Hudson Bay Lodge in Smithers

Screen capture from vintage 1955 Fall Fair Parade footage showing the Bulkley Hotel float.
VIDEO: Vernon videographer digs up rare footage of Smithers in 1955

The 8mm reel included an incredible two minutes of the 1955 Fall Fair parade on Main Street

With local MLA Adam Olsen looking on, BC Greens leader Sonia Furstenau said a Green government would convert BC Ferries into a Crown corporation Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Green leader Sonia Furstenau promises to convert BC Ferries back into Crown corporation

Promise comes Monday afternoon with five days left in campaign

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Police confirm human remains were found in a recycling bin in Vancouver on Oct. 18, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Human remains found in recycling bin floating near Vancouver beach

Police asking nearby residents to see if their recycling bin has gone missing

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson visits a North Vancouver daycare to announce his party’s election promises for child care, Oct. 9, 2020. (B.C. Liberal Party video)
B.C. parties pitch costly child care programs in pandemic

B.C. Liberals say they’ll deliver on NDP’s $10-a-day promise for lower-income families

A B.C. man decided to create a website to help people find family doctors accepting patients. Because Victoria is considered high-demand, clinic openings can’t be posted publicly. (Unsplash)
Vancouver Island man starts website that connects B.C. residents with doctors

Nanaimo man started project to help people find family physicians accepting patients

Voting station at Tzeachten Hall in the riding of Chilliwack-Kent on the first day of advance voting in the provincial election on Oct. 15, 2020. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. VOTES 2020: 380,000 British Columbians head to polls in first 4 days of advance voting

Some of highest voter turnout so far has been seen on Vancouver Island and in Shuswap

Most Read