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Canada launches COVID-19 tracking app but Quebecers will have to wait

Canada launches COVID-19 tracking app but Quebecers will have to waitd3sign / Moment / Getty Images

The federal government has finally launched its COVID-19 exposure notification app after weeks of delay, marking the beginning of a new frontier in the coronavirus fight.

The smartphone app called COVID Alert notifies participating Canadians when they come in proximity to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

The app is the latest move in the battle to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Canada, however, it is currently only available to those living in Ontario. While government officials say the goal is to make the app available across the country, they could not say when it will be ready in other provinces nor why Ontario is the only one province that has agreed to adopt the app so far.

With the initial rollout underway in Ontario, Canadians across the rest of the country are encouraged to download the app in anticipation of other provinces agreeing to greenlight the use of the new software.

According to the press release, talks are ongoing with other provinces to come on board in the coming days, including New Brunswick and British Columbia.

How to download the app

The app can be downloaded on the Apple App Store or the Google Play store.

Is it safe?

The ‘COVID Alert’ app aims to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus in Canada by notifying a user when they have been in close contact with another user who tested positive for the virus. The government describes it as an exposure notification app — not a contact-tracing app — in other words, it does not track personal data.

According to the website, the COVID Alert app has no way of knowing:

  • Your location, as it does not use GPS or location services
  • Your name or address
  • The place or time you were near someone
  • If you are currently near someone who was previously diagnosed

When you download the app, it explains how your privacy is protected and how the app works and from there, it will ask for your permission to send notifications. Only after will it prompt you to a screen that lets you choose your location, but you can skip this step as it is optional.

To trace someone’s exposure, the app uses Bluetooth to exchange random codes with nearby phones. It does not use or access any location data, the website states.

"I want to be clear: this app isn't mandatory," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters earlier today at a press conference. "It's completely voluntary to download and to use."

Health Canada shared images of the app’s interface, which can be viewed here.

We recommend making sure you download the right app as there are many others that look similar but are not supported by the Canadian Government. 

For more information, we recommend watching the promotional video from the Government of Canada.



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