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B.C. Continues to Dismiss COVID Alert App, Will Hire 800 Contact Tracers Instead

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British Columbia continues to dismiss Canada’s COVID Alert app as a tool to help track COVID-19 exposures.

On Monday, B.C.’s deputy provincial health officer, Dr. Réka Gustafson, revealed there were 1,120 new cases of COVID-19 over the past three days, to go with six deaths.

The recent surge in COVID-19 cases doesn’t mean B.C. is ready for COVID Alert yet, as the province continues to favour human contact tracers instead, with an ongoing hiring spree underway. B.C. says 600 new contact tracers will be hired by the end of this week, with a goal of 800.

“Based on the features of that app, mostly because of the type of information that’s provided individuals, it wasn’t felt that it would have additional benefit, would be additional value to the existing contact tracing,” said Gustafson, according to CBC News. “We reviewed that app very, very carefully.”

Gustafson said B.C. is working with the federal government, but COVID Alert won’t be considered in the province until it gains specific features.

“It isn’t able to notify and tell them when, how long, what they need to do, how intense that contact was, how close that contact was, when it occurred and what they need to do about it,” explained Gustafson.

Contact tracers in B.C. hired will be able to do a better job versus COVID Alert, Gustafson explained.

Recently, COVID Alert was updated with more precise notification features, and it remains unclear if this update is good enough for B.C. health officials.

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.

Provinces currently supporting COVID Alert:

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

Still waiting for:

  • Alberta
  • British Columbia
  • Northwest Territories
  • Nunavut
  • Yukon

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 November 2, COVID Alert has been downloaded 5.0 million times, with over 3,300 people voluntarily entering in one-time keys.

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