Canada, Ontario Partner on COVID-19 Tracing App

User Data to Remain Anonymous

Canada and Ontario are partnering on a new COVID-19 mobile tracing app. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the plans at his press conference this morning.

“This new mobile app will put the privacy of Canadians first, and act as an extra measure of safety to help protect our families and communities from the virus,” Trudeau said. Beta testing will begin in Ontario next month.

The app was developed in partnership by the Canadian Digital Service and the Ontario Digital Service, and uses technology developed by Shopify. “Today’s announcement shows the unprecedented collaboration happening across Canada during this crisis,” Digital Government Minister Joyce Murray said. Blackberry will review the app’s security. The app will be available to Canadians for free.

Ontario Unveils More Details on Contact Tracing Strategy

The app known as COVID Alert will allow users to be alerted if they’ve been in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 over a 14 day period. “As we take our contact tracing strategy to the next level today, I want to thank the federal government for providing more boots on the ground, and supporting a privacy-first app that will protect both Ontarians and Canadians alike,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said.

The app will incorporate Bluetooth technology provided by Apple and Google to anonymously record instances where users have come into close contact. Ontario public health officials will issue temporary unique codes to those who test positive for COVID-19. Those who have come into contact will be issued an alert. The app will protect the identity of its users.

“To support these efforts, we are dramatically expanding staffing levels and getting on with the long-overdue work of replacing outdated systems that no longer meet the needs of public health units,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said. The province plans to expand tracing capacity through the use of Statistics Canada staff, and will begin building a supplementary pool of contact tracers from the Ontario Public service.

Elliott also established a new set of guidelines for Public Health units on contact tracing as follows:

  • Connect with cases, and with all individuals who have had close contact with a positive case, within 24 hours of being identified;
  • Direct all close contacts to self-isolate for up to 14 days;
  • Follow up with close contacts every day for the duration of their self-isolation; and
  • Advise testing of all appropriate close contacts.

“Along with the early detection of new cases through the ongoing implementation of our enhanced testing strategy, more effective and efficient case and contact management will ensure that we are able to stop the spread of COVID-19 as we gradually reopen the province,” Elliott said.