Federal COVID-19 app launches after month-long delay

Yolanda Curtis
August 1, 2020

As with all COVID-19 contact tracing apps, COVID Alert uses Bluetooth to exchange random, anonymized codes with nearby phones, determining how close someone is by the strength of the Bluetooth signal. As long as the Bluetooth function is on, users will be able to be notified.

The app is now only live in Ontario, launching weeks after a test-run across the province was delayed.

While a user in any province can download the app, Canadians outside of Ontario will see the message "We'll let you know as soon as people in your area can report a diagnosis through COVID Alert", until their province links it to their system. It's the same thing as a mask or anything like that.

No personal information from the user is collected by the app and does not track the name or location of the user. The federal government is working with other provinces to make it available to residents across the country.

Those who receive a notification will also receive instructions on what to do next. If someone tests positive for COVID, their public health authority will give them a one-time key to enter in the app.

During the technical briefing, federal officials emphasized that it should not be considered a contact tracing app, though it has previously been described as such by federal and provincial politicians.

To stay safe as more of the province reopens, Ontarians should continue to follow public health guidelines including physical distancing with people not in their social circle, wearing a face covering if physical distancing is a challenge, washing hands thoroughly and frequently, and if anyone thinks they have COVID-19 or have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19, get tested.

The app was supposed to go live for the pilot in Ontario on July 2, however, there's been little information provided about the reason for the almost month-long delay.

"This is an app that puts your privacy first", Ford said.

The app is not mandatory for Canadians, and can be downloaded voluntarily from Google's Play Store and Apple's App Store.

"I think they did a really good job. They were totally aware that there's going to be some hesitancy with people using this app", said Dr. Isaac Bogoch on CTV News Channel.

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