The Ontario government has a plan to ramp up contact tracing by recruiting hundreds of existing provincial staff, supplemented by staff from Statistics Canada to help prepare the province for “a potential second wave” of COVID-19 in the fall.
Part of the strategy includes a mobile app that will use Bluetooth technology to notify other users if they have come in contact with someone who tested positive for the novel coronavirus. It will also allow users to contact their local public health unit by using a form through the app.
The mobile contact tracing app was officially announced by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday morning, who said that Ontario will be the first province to test the tool. The use of the app will be “completely voluntary,” the prime minister said, and will eventually be used nationwide.
The technology was developed through the Canadian Digital Service with the help of Shopify, Blackberry and the Government of Ontario.
The premier described the applications “like a protective shield around us, to a certain degree” and urged residents to download the app when it becomes available.”If we don’t have the cooperation of the people of Ontario – we put ourselves more at risk – it’s 100 per cent private,” he said.
“We need people to download this app – it’s going to protect us, it’s going to protect our families.”
How does the app work?
Officials have stressed that the mobile app will not collect personal data or health information from its users. It will also not collect or track GPS location data.Instead, the app will share “anonymous, randomly generated codes” with other users, which will then be used to trace contacts in the event of a confirmed case of COVID-19.
When a user tests positive, they can type in their COVID test number—which can be found using the test results website through their local health units—and then choose to share their codes with those who they have been in contact with over the last 14 days. A notification will then be sent to those users, who will be notified that they have been exposed. All anonymized data on the app will be deleted after 14 days, the Ontario government said. The smartphone app will be ready for download in Ontario only on July 2, officials said, and should work on both Android and Apple devices.