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Ontario to Remote Install COVID Alert App on 25,000 Provincial Employee Cellphones

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According to CTV News Toronto, the province of Ontario will remote install Canada’s COVID Alert exposure notification app onto company-issued employee smartphones, ahead of the Thanksgiving long weekend.

CTV News says it has learned “the app will be remote installed on more than 25,000 government-issued smartphones used by employees with the Ontario Public Service (OPS).”

COVID Alert will started appearing on OPS smartphones as of Thursday, but usage will be optional, as employees can either use it or delete the app once it shows up.

Other sources in the Ontario government told CTV News it hopes the LCBO, Ontario Power Generation and Ontario Lottery and Gaming corporation would also remote install COVID Alert on company-issued smartphones as well.

The decision to install COVID Alert remotely on provincial work phones was supported by the union president of the Association of Management, Administrative, and Professional Crown Employees of Ontario (AMPACEO) and president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU).

Toronto City Council previously installed COVID Alert on over 9,200 smartphones managed by the city.

Earlier this week on Wednesday, Manitoba announced it would also urge provincial employees to download COVID Alert on over 7,300 smartphones.

“More than 7,350 cellphones are used by public servants across government and at Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries, and Manitoba Hydro,” said Central Services Minister Reg Helwer. “This was an obvious and easy additional action we could take to reinforce the value of the app and to encourage more Manitobans to use it.”

Ontario reported 939 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, the province’s highest single-day count since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

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.

Yesterday, COVID Alert launched in Prince Edward Island, making it the seventh province to support the exposure notification app.

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