Canada may finally kill COVID Alert — sorry to the 6 people still using it

Reports suggest the government could shut down COVID Alert as early as this week

The federal government reportedly plans to shut down its COVID-19 contact tracing app, COVID Alert, sometime this week.

The news comes from The Globe and Mail, which cited two sources familiar with the situation. However, the publication didn’t identify the sources, who weren’t “authorized to discuss the shutdown.”

The report hardly comes as a surprise, given many provinces rolled out changes to PCR testing regulations that rendered the app useless several months ago.

Further, it was widely reported that COVID Alert had failed, based on the number of downloads and other usage metrics. Intended to help warn Canadians of potential exposure to COVID, only 6.9 million people downloaded the app by last February — Canada has a population of over 38 million people. Moreover, users had only inputted 57,704 codes declaring a COVID infection into the app. The Globe notes that at that time, over 3 million Canadians had contracted COVID-19.

For those unfamiliar with the app, COVID Alert ran on a system developed jointly by Apple and Google that leveraged smartphones’ Bluetooth capabilities to trade anonymous signals between people who were in close contact. If someone tested positive for COVID-19, they could input a code into the app, which would then send notifications warning of possible COVID exposure to other app users who had been near the person who tested positive.

While the underlying framework for the contact tracing app came from Google and Apple, COVID Alert was built by the Canadian Digital Service with help from Shopify and a security review from BlackBerry.

The government reportedly spent over $20 million developing the app, which launched in July 2020. However, questions remain about whether the app was helpful in combating the spread of COVID-19.

Source: The Globe and Mail