According to Health Canada, an update is coming for COVID Alert to accommodate healthcare workers, to allow them to easily disable the app while at work.
“We are making this change after requests from health care workers who are consistently in appropriate personal protective equipment and want to turn off the app during their shift,” said Health Canada in a statement to CBC News.
“We have always recognized that health care providers working with COVID-19 patients may wish to turn off the COVID Alert app while in the workplace,” said the federal government.
Healthcare workers are “typically wearing personal protective equipment. They have sanitation happening. They have all types of other safeguards. So the use of the app might actually give them a few extra notifications that might not be reflective of their actual situations,” explained the director general of Health Canada’s COVID-19 task force, Lucie Vignola.
The update will allow COVID Alert to be disabled without turning off Bluetooth on smartphones, which would also cut the connection to medical devices staff would be wearing.
Earlier this week, CBC News reported London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) told employees to disable COVID Alert to prevent contact tracing confusion.
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:
- New Brunswick
- Newfoundland and Labrador
- Nova Scotia
- Prince Edward Island
Still waiting for:
- British Columbia
- Northwest Territories
As of November 17, COVID Alert has been downloaded 5.3 million times, with 5,145 people voluntarily entering in one-time keys, according to the federal government.