Ontario has a new contact tracing strategy for COVID-19. The new strategy includes a mobile app alerting system called COVID Alert. The app was developed by the Ontario Digital Service and a group of volunteers from Shopify and will be available for download in Ontario on July 2nd. It will work on both Apple and Android devices.
In announcing the new app Premier Doug Ford was clear privacy was at the forefront of the development, “I want to be clear, personal privacy was our number one priority in developing this app. The data will be anonymous and will protect the privacy of the people using the app.”
The use of the app is entirely voluntary. Users can download it and be notified anonymously if they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 14 days as long as the person who has tested positive has entered their information into the app. It will also provide the user with access to Ontario’s public health advice and resources and recommended action. Ford stressed contact tracing is critical as the province reopens, “We need people to download this app, it’s going to protect us, protect you, and your families.”
The app will also track Ontario residents if they travel throughout Canada, regardless of which province they are in.
As well as the app, Ford also announced that 1,700 additional Statistics Canada employees will be used by public health units to perform contact tracing bringing the total number in Ontario to approximately 3,700. The province will also improve its technology by modernizing the integrated Public Health Information System to a new custom-built COVID-19 case and contact management system.