Canada launches COVID-19 exposure notification app

COVID Alert now available for download on iPhones and Android devices

Canada has launched a nation-wide exposure notification app to help inform Canadians when they may have been exposed to COVID-19, part of a broader effort to contain the virus as businesses and public spaces reopen across the country.

The app – called COVID Alert – is now available for download on iPhones and Android devices. Ontario is the only province or territory giving out codes that are key to its functionality.

“To clarify right from the outset, the COVID Alert is not a contact tracing app,” a government official told journalists in a technical briefing about the application on Friday.

The app was designed by the Canadian Digital Service using open source code from Shopify. BlackBerry performed a security review. The technology was developed using Apple and Google’s system.

Once installed on someone’s phone, COVID Alert uses Bluetooth to exchange random codes with other nearby phones. These codes change every five minutes. Every day, COVID Alert checks a list of random codes from people who tell the app they’ve tested positive for the infection.

Users who test positive will received a one-time key from local health authorities, starting in Ontario today. There are just under 4,200 active cases of COVID-19 in Ontario, as of the federal government’s Thursday count.

When the key codes given by local health authorities are entered into the app, the codes exchanged with nearby users based on their proximity allows them to be notified that they may have come into contact with an infected individual. COVID Alert judges how close a user may have gotten to someone with COVID-19 based on the strength of the bluetooth connection.

If the app detects a user may have been exposed to COVID-19, it provides them information on how to keep themselves and others safe.

The app doesn’t collect a user’s location, name, address, contacts or health information, but it does record a user’s IP address for three months to protect against cyber attacks. Android users must turn their location settings on for it to work for, whereas iPhone users do not.

Officials said Friday that while the app will be immediately available for download nation-wide, it will only be fully functional in Ontario at first, adding that the timeline for the app’s full scale rollout will be based on the “circumstances and context” of each jurisdiction.

The government is finalising conversations with other provinces and hopes the app will be fully supported across the country in coming days.

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Version: 1.0.2
Updated: July 30, 2020
Category: Health & Fitness
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