It’s been about a month since Canada launched the COVID Alert app, and it now has 2.2 million downloads.
Unfortunately, that means there hasn’t been a lot of uptake for the app, which hit 2 million downloads about midway through August.
Global News reports that COVID Alert saw only 90 users log positive COVID-19 diagnoses with the app since launch. For comparison, 80 to 100 people have tested positive every day in Ontario for the past four weeks. Further, Global points out that it currently isn’t possible to tell how many people received exposure notifications since the app doesn’t collect that data.
Unfortunately, that means people with the app who have tested positive haven’t been using COVID Alert to share the data. Due to the nature of how COVID Alert works, that also means the app is less effective.
COVID Alert operates on the Exposure Notification system developed by Apple and Google. It works by sending anonymous identifier codes over Bluetooth to nearby smartphones. Each phone stores a local record of traded codes, which includes details about transmission strength and length of proximity. The data also can’t identify specific users. Those codes act as an anonymous record of potential exposure to COVID-19.
When someone tests positive for COVID-19, they receive an authentication code with the result. Users can then verify in the COVID Alert app that they received a positive test. When they do so, they can upload their local record of potential exposures. Other phones check the uploaded codes for matches. If a match is found, that means there was a potential contact with someone who has tested positive with COVID-19. The app then alerts the user and provides the next steps they can take.
Ultimately, two things need to happen to improve the effectiveness of COVID Alert. More people need to download it, but more importantly, those who test positive need to share that information via the app. It’s important to note that doing so doesn’t reveal your identity to other users — the entire system is designed to be anonymous.
For now, COVID Alert can be downloaded in every province, but only works in Ontario. Alberta has plans to transition to COVID Alert, while Quebec has said it doesn’t plan to deploy the app any time soon. Expanding COVID Alert to other provinces could boost download numbers, but Ontario also needs to increase uptake.
Source: Global News