B.C. Says COVID Alert App “Can’t Tell You Everything” Versus Human Contact Tracers

The B.C. government has yet to officially launch support for Canada’s COVID Alert app, but Premier John Horgan does support the federal government’s effort with the app.

Speaking to the media earlier this week, Horgan announced B.C. would hire 500 more health officials to be contact tracers to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Horgan said COVID Alert “can’t tell you everything” and the app can’t replace humans when it comes to contact tracing.

“Although we do support the federal government’s work developing a COVID alert app for smartphones, the app can’t tell you everything. Nothing replaces person-to-person contact. Public health teams typically have staff who work on contact tracing for communicable diseases, but during a pandemic more resources are required,” said Horgan said Wednesday, according to News1130.

According to the province, new recent cases of COVID-19 have been tied to young people at gatherings and parties. Horgan called on Vancouver celebrities Ryan Reynold and Seth Rogen to help spread the message to youth to “stop partying”.

Horgan said the work of human contact tracers can’t be replaced by app, but added the federal government is working out some technical issues with COVID Alert so B.C. can be included.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said, “Right now we are holding our own. We’re able to contact 98 per cent of the people who are close contacts of our cases here in B.C. We’re not seeing a lot of unlinked cases. And, yes, this is the work that the teams are doing across the province.”

The COVID Alert app utilizes Apple and Google’s exposure notification framework, which allows for anonymous Bluetooth “handshakes” in the background between devices. If a user tests positive for COVID-19, they can choose to notify others by obtaining a one-time code from local health authorities. All data is anonymous and the app does not track user GPS location, with all data remaining on phones and not uploaded to a central server.

COVID Alert currently is supported in Ontario, with upcoming expansion expected in Newfoundland and Labrador, along with Alberta. The app has been downloaded 1.9 million times and the federal government says everyone should still install the app for iOS and Android, as users can still be notified if they have been potentially exposed to COVID-19.


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