COVID Alert: Canada’s contact tracing app still active
Canada’s COVID-19 exposure notification app is still operational, though it’s rarely used in conjunction with positive tests and a claim from Newfoundland and Labrador’s Minister of Health that the government federal government “gave up” months ago.
Responding to comments Dr. John Haggie made during a public health update on Wednesday, a Health Canada spokesperson told CTVNews.ca that the app is still “supported” by the government and that Commitment data is uploaded on a monthly basis.
A reporter asked Haggie if COVID alert codes were still being issued to people who tested positive, to which he replied, “The feds have given up [the] The COVID Alert app some time ago, several months before Christmas in fact, they stopped supporting it. They stopped updating their dashboard.
“Adoption was so low that the effort to maintain these sites was unreasonable given the fact that it was earning so little.”
A spokesperson for the provincial Department of Health and Community Services confirmed to CTVNews.ca on Thursday that the minister did not receive the “latest” information on app usage prior to Wednesday’s briefing.
“We have been assured that the COVID Alert app remains active in Newfoundland and Labrador,” the statement read, later adding that officials there do not always “use” the app, because the search for contracts remains the most effective way to reach people.
COVID Alert was launched in July 2020 and seen as an innovative tool to help slow the community spread of the virus by identifying positive cases before they lead to major outbreaks.
Users who test positive must upload a one-time code to the app, which notifies other users who have been within two meters of the positive person in the past 14 days of potential exposure.
It is a sometimes disjointed application. If a user is in a jurisdiction that does not automatically issue a code, they should contact public health to obtain one – which has drawn criticism.
While the app has been downloaded 6,784,430 times as of December 6, only 37,312 single-use codes have been downloaded. With over two million cases recorded in Canada since the start of the pandemic, that means a small percentage have actually reported their positive result via COVID Alert.
British Columbia, Alberta, Nunavut and Yukon have resisted recommending the tool, with officials in those regions saying using the app would add complexity to the existing work of contact tracers.
Questions about app usage come as provinces and territories shatter records for the number of COVID-19 cases as the highly infectious variant of Omicron sweeps the country.
The federal government says it expects increased engagement with the app given the current epidemiological situation.