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Government to test coronavirus contact tracing app

Last Updated Jun 18, 2020 at 11:07 am MDT

(iStock Photo)

The federal government is going to begin testing a COVID-19 contact tracing app in Ontario

The app will be rolled out nationally once testing is over

Use of the app is completely voluntary; Justin Trudeau says privacy is also a top priority

OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) – Canada will soon test a COVID-19 contact tracing app.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the testing will first be done in Ontario before the application is rolled out nationally.

Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 can anonymously upload their status to a national network that would notify other app users who have been in close contact with that person, Trudeau explains, adding use of the app is completely voluntary.

“I think the way to think about this app is actually in three different sections,” Trudeau says. “One is the national app that everyone can download that will be customized for each province, but it will be one app that, whether you download it and live in Ontario and travel to B.C. or travel to the Northwest Territories, if that becomes an option, it’ll work everywhere across the country.”

The second part, he explains, is the national database “of randomized codes associated with each smartphone that has this app,” that will divide the data into two parts: people who¬† have tested positive for COVID-19 and people who did not.

“If your phone gets in proximity for a certain amount of time at a certain closeness to another phone, it’ll register that it has had contact with that anonymized … identifier for that app,” Trudeau says, adding if a person you’ve been in proximity with has since tested positive for the coronavirus, you will be prompted to reach out to local health services.

The third part of the app, Trudeau says, is the local, provincial, or territorial health services which will be responsible for ensuring the stored data on the app is up to date.

There are more than 30 million smartphones in Canada that will be able to download the application, Trudeau says, adding that while use isn’t mandatory, the more people who use it, the better it will work.

The app was developed with Shopify, Blackberry, and the government of Ontario, and will be available for download starting in July.

Trudeau says it will be an “extra tool” to help people “move forward with confidence,” while allowing the government to track and trace more exposure, or potential exposure, of the coronavirus across Canada.

“It is an extra layer of protection that goes on top of everything else we’re already doing, and that’s why we’re encouraging people to download the app once it becomes available in early July,” the prime minister says.

To protect the privacy of Canadians, Trudeau says no personal information will be shared from this app. He adds no location services will be used.