COVID alert app

Only two keys have been given to Islanders who tested positive for COVID-19 as of last week. When a COVID Alert user tests positive, they can enter this key into the app and it notifies other users who have been in close contact recently. Charlotte MacAulay photo

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Uptake of the Canada COVID Alert app among Islanders is hard to measure. Information about downloads per province weren’t collected until February this year and details collected since then won’t be available to the public until spring 2021. 

The app which launched in August last year was highly promoted by government and health authorities across the country including by PEI’s Public Health Office as a tool that could be helpful to identify potential exposures to the virus among the public. 

The app was downloaded by more than 6 million smartphones across the country. But that is only a fraction (27 per cent) of the smartphones capable of using the app in Canada’s nine participating provinces and territories. 

“We consider this a good number given that published research has found exposure notification apps are effective at a 15 per cent uptake,” said Natalie Mohamed, a communications representative with Health Canada.

As of last week, two keys had been given out to Island app users, according to Chief Public Health Officer, Dr Heather Morrison. 

App users who test positive for COVID-19 can receive a one-time key from their health authority which they can enter into the app. When the key is entered, the app will notify other users who came in close contact with that person for at least 15 minutes in the past 14 days.

As of March 3 more than 20,600 keys had been given out by health authorities nation-wide. A total of 351 of these keys were given out in Atlantic provinces and the territories.

Authorities are still advising Islanders and Canadians alike to download the app if they can. 

“Since vaccination will be administered progressively to all Canadians and given that it takes time for vaccines to build up immunity, people can still be exposed to the virus,” Ms Mohamed said. 

“The government therefore continues to encourage all Canadians to download and use COVID Alert today.”

Canadian Digital Service initially paid $480,000 to develop the app. The process included staffing capacity, overtime costs, cloud infrastructure costs, and other expenses such as testing equipment and security support.

Starting this spring, Canadians can expect to see statistics showing the number of active users and downloads per province or territory, the number of exposure notifications sent, the number of users who enter a one-time key and statistics about technical performance to help ensure the app is working correctly.

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