COVID Alert App Cost Canada $20 Million, Used Only 869 Times in November

Canada is seeing a countrywide spike in COVID-19 cases fuelled by the Omicron variant, and questions are being raised as to where the national contract-tracing app that cost $20 million in taxpayer money to develop, COVID Alert, is — reports CityNews.

Alex Beattie, a spokesperson for Health Canada, told CityNews in a statement that the COVID Alert app, which has been downloaded 6.7 million times to date, was only running on around 3.1 million phones across Canada in November.

It’s worth noting B.C. and Alberta health authorities never supported the COVID Alert app, which did not help the app’s widespread adoption.

The problem isn’t how many phones are running the app, though. It’s how many phones owned by those who have tested positive for coronavirus are actually informing others of possible exposure.

In November, the COVID Alert app was only used by 869 individuals to inform anyone they come into contact with of possible exposure to the virus.

To put that in perspective, Ontario alone saw 18,900 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 between Nov. 1 and Dec. 1.

Health Canada said back in March that only 5% of positive COVID-19 cases in Canada were making correct use of the COVID Alert app, whereas the other 95% didn’t know of it or were not using it as intended. The majority of Canadians have not even downloaded the app.

“The Government of Canada still recommends the use of COVID Alert even for individuals who have been vaccinated. With the uncertainties around variants and as we learn more about vaccines, the app continues to be a useful tool in the fight against COVID-19,” Beattie said.

With Canada’s COVID Alert app, the onus has fallen on those who test positive for the virus to enter a one-time key into the app before it starts informing anyone they come into contact with, significantly hindering both adoption and proper usage of the tool.

The fact that access to COVID-19 testing is limited heavily from region to region due to supply chain issues further exacerbates the problem by making it hard for people who have contracted COVID-19 to even get tested and get a COVID Alert key in the first place.

And most of the residents who do get a code don’t end up entering it into the app, simply because it is a chore, because it is a rather unintuitive process, or because they don’t know about the COVID Alert app.