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New COVID contact app available

The federal government has rolled out a new COVID contact detection  app starting here in Ontario. The new app can tell users whether they have been around someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 over the previous two weeks. But while government officials say the goal is to make the COVID Alert contact notification app available across the country and are in talks with other provinces, they could not say when it will be available outside Ontario.

Canadians can download the app to their mobile phones, which will use Bluetooth technology to exchange signals with nearby phones. If someone tests positive for COVID, their public health authority will give them a one-time key to enter in the app. The app will then send out notices to every phone that has been within two metres for at least 15 minutes of the phone of the person who tested positive over the previous 14 days if they, too, have downloaded the app. Those who receive a notification will also receive instructions on what to do next.

Officials say the more people who download the app, the more effective it will be and stressed that it is a notification app, not a contact-tracing app.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was among those who said they downloaded the app on Thursday.

“I want to be clear: this app isn’t mandatory,” he told reporters. “It’s completely voluntary to download

In addition, while the Android version requires uses to turn on their location settings, officials maintain the app will not know a user’s location, name, address, when they were near someone or if they are currently near someone who was previously diagnosed.

For users of Apple devices, the app works on operating systems iOS 13.5 and higher, meaning some people might have to either upgrade their operating systems or not be able to use it on older smartphones. Officials said the government has been working with federal Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien’s office to address any privacy concerns.

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