More than 1.18 million people have already downloaded the app
By Caitlin Finlay
Back in June, we posted an article about a nationwide contact-tracing app that was set to launch in July. This tracing app, COVID Alert, was officially launched in Ontario on July 31 to mixed reviews.
Tracing COVID-19 cases has proved challenging and relies heavily on those who test positive remembering where they’ve been and with whom they’ve been in contact over the past two weeks. COVID Alert is a Canadian app created to help track COVID-19 cases and alert those who have been near someone who has tested positive.
For those concerned about downloading the app, rest assured that it doesn’t track your location and doesn’t collect any personal information such as your name, address, or contacts. Rather than using GPS, COVID Alert relies on Bluetooth to exchange randomly generated codes with nearby phones that also have the app installed. Should someone test positive, a healthcare provider will provide him or her with an anonymous code to enter in the app. Each day, the app will scan the generated codes of people you’ve been near, and if any of them have marked themselves as testing positive within the last 14 days, you’ll get an alert. Ontario is currently the only province in which the app is functional, meaning you can mark yourself as testing positive for COVID-19; however, the app is available for download regardless of province.
Unfortunately, there are some issues in terms of app accessibility. The app is currently available for download only on Android or Apple cellphones with newer operating systems; the app will not work on most phones five years old or older. This restriction has been criticized as the demographics of those with older cellphones (or none) overlap with those already at a higher risk for contracting COVID-19. Despite the download requirements, more than 1.18 million people have downloaded the app to date.
Remember that the app doesn’t replace manual contract tracing but is an additional tool to make it easier to track cases. It also doesn’t replace public-safety measures, so continue to wear masks when indoors or when social distancing isn’t possible. Wash your hands frequently, and sanitize them when you can’t.