Manitoba Says COVID Alert App ‘Not the Big Answer’ Province is Looking For

Canada’s COVID Alert exposure notification app for COVID-19 so far is only supported by Ontario, but the app can still work in the background when Canadians download it.

Will Manitoba support COVID Alert? Provincial officials gave more details about its stance to the media on Monday.

Chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said COVID Alert would require a “significant” percentage of Manitoba’s population to use it, while also noting the app is voluntary and would not replace existing contact tracing.

Roussin said COVID Alert is “not the big answer” that everyone is looking for, according to the Winnipeg Free Press. The chief provincial public health officer added Manitoba’s e-health team is looking into ways to integrate COVID Alert  for citizens while also making sure there are no privacy concerns.

“Certainly, there’s privacy discussions. From my opinion of it, I don’t think it should be a big issue but certainly it’s an issue to some to look at it,” said Roussin.

Manitoba Health Minister Cameron Friesen cast doubt on COVID Alert, saying how he has heard up to 60% of the Canadian population would need to download the app for it to be useful, noting it would be “challenging” to achieve that goal.

Friesen said the work is “technical” to make an app such as COVID Alert to work with Manitoba’s systems, “because it only works well if it’s able to return that information to us in a usable form.”

COVID Alert uses the Exposure Notification framework from Apple and Google, allowing for devices to anonymously have “handshakes” in the background using Bluetooth. No GPS data, personal data, phones numbers or addresses are collected from the open source app, which has been vetted and approved by national and provincial privacy commissioners.

Earlier today, it was revealed after one month of its release, COVID Alert hit 2.2 million downloads.

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