Calgary Mayor Calls for COVID Alert App in Alberta as Coronavirus Cases Spike

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi told the media on Wednesday Alberta needs to adopt Canada’s COVID Alert app without delay.

Nenshi said he was unsure why COVID Alert is not yet supported in Alberta.

“The federal app might not be perfect…but it’s something. We know the provincial app doesn’t work properly on most devices. We know people aren’t using it at all. So let’s take what we’ve got and make the job of those contact tracers easier,” said Nenshi, according to the Calgary Herald.

Nenshi cautioned about the “politicization of public health,” citing alleged reports COVID Alert was dubbed “Trudeau’s app” by United Conservative ministers, heckling in the chamber.

“Stop it. We don’t need that kind of partisanship here,” said Nenshi. “We’ve got to keep people safe, and I just hope that we go ahead and sign off on it as soon as possible.”

Calgary Emergency Management Agency Chief Tom Sampson agreed with Nenshi COVID Alert needs to be adopted in Alberta.

As for the COVID Alert delay, Health Minister Tyler Shandro said on Wednesday the issue is related to how to transition the existing 247,000 users of the province’s ABTraceTogether app to COVID Alert.

“It only works if we have a certain amount of people who are going to be downloading it,” said Shandro. “We need, for this to be effective in Alberta, for there to be a good base of downloads. That’s why we’re having that conversation with (the federal government) right now to make sure that transition is smooth.”

Alberta committed in August to switch over to COVID Alert. ABTraceTogether has been dubbed a security concern on iPhones as users must leave their displays on and app open for it to work properly. The app records user data and phone numbers, to contact those potentially exposed to COVID-19.

Canada’s COVID Alert app is based on Google and Apple’s exposure notification framework, which leverages Bluetooth on devices for anonymous “handshakes” in the background. The app does not use GPS info or collect any user data. It has been vetted as safe by Canada’s privacy commissioner and provincial counterparts.

When someone tests positive for COVID-19, they can anonymously alert others that may have been in contact using COVID Alert, by obtaining a one-time use from their provincial health authority.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said earlier this week he hopes Alberta and British Columbia–two provinces still yet to adopt COVID Alert–come on board soon.

How to transition people to COVID Alert in Alberta? Easy. Delete ABTraceTogether and download COVID Alert. Done.

Provinces currently supporting COVID Alert:

  • Manitoba
  • New Brunswick
  • Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Ontario
  • Quebec
  • Saskatchewan
  • Nova Scotia
  • Prince Edward Island

Still waiting for:

Recently, the government of Canada acknowledged there was a bug within the COVID Alert app, and urged Canadians to update to iOS 14.0.1 to resolve the issue.

Download links: 

As of October 27, 2020, COVID Alert has been downloaded 4,903,290 times and 2,788 one-time keys have been used to alert others about potential exposures, says the federal government.