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

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

Creston Valley Hospital. Photo: Aaron Hemens
‘Wear your mask, because it’s the best shot we’ve got’: Creston Valley Hospital’s Chief of Staff

“Hard things are much easier to do if we stay connected. This virus is doing its very best to undermine our unity. Remember, we are fighting a virus, not each other,” writes Dr. Nerine Kleinhans

A man wearing a face-mask walks past protestors at a rally against COVID-19 health measures in Creston on Nov. 28. Photo: Aaron Hemens
Creston residents rally against COVID-19 health measures

More than 100 community members of all ages were in attendance, and many were not wearing masks or practicing social distancing

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
47 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health region

1,538 total cases, 399 are active, ten in hospital

This picture of Taghum resident Marc Savard was taken in February when he first spoke to the Nelson Star and little was known about the virus that had shut him out of his job in Wuhan, China. Photo: Tyler Harper
VIDEO: Once an outlier, Nelson man’s COVID-19 experience now typical

Savard was living in Wuhan, China, when the pandemic began

A still frame from “Wheels”. Submitted by Mark Wolfe
Creston short film wins festival award

“Wheels” was selected as one of the recipients of a merit award for the Canada Shorts film festival

One of seven kitties rescued from a property east of Grand Forks Friday, Nov. 27. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Grand Forks women rescue sick kitties from rural property

Kimberly Feeny and Lisa Valenta spent their Friday nursing seven cats rescued east of the city

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Kevin Bieksa during his days playing with the Vancouver Canucks. (Photo: commons.wikimedia.org)
Bieksa to guest on free Canucks Alumni ‘Hot Stove’ on Zoom app

Former NHL player has become a game analyst on Sportsnet

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
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

A big job: Former forests minister Doug Donaldson stands before a 500-year-old Douglas fir in Saanich to announce preservation of some of B.C.’s oldest trees, July 2019. (B.C. government)
B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests, rural development ministry

Horgan says Gordon Campbell’s super-ministry doesn’t work

Peter Wilson, left, and Micah Rankin, right, formed the Special Prosecutor team that was tasked with reviewing and litigating charges stemming from the Bountiful investigation. Trevor Crawley photo.
End of Bountiful prosecution wraps up decades of legal battles

Constitutional questions had to be settled before a polygamy prosecution could move forward

2020
Urban wildlife Part VI: The East Kootenay birds of autumn

The work of local photographers printed in the pages of the East Kootenay Advertiser throughout 2020. Part VI.

Most Read