The COVID Alert app is seen on an iPhone in Ottawa, on Friday, July 31, 2020. Newfoundland and Labrador has signed on to use a new smartphone app that notifies users when they have been in close contact with a someone infected with COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

The COVID Alert app is seen on an iPhone in Ottawa, on Friday, July 31, 2020. Newfoundland and Labrador has signed on to use a new smartphone app that notifies users when they have been in close contact with a someone infected with COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

COVID Alert app has ‘been a challenge,’ not suitable for B.C. yet: Dr. Henry

App is currently operational in eight provinces

While many in B.C. have been waiting for the COVID alert app to come to the province since it first launched this summer, it won’t be arriving just yet.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said it’s “been a challenge” for health officials in B.C. because “there are some parameters they built in the federal app that we don’t feel work.”

Henry said that she would like an app that could be used for specific times and places instead of the current COVID alert app style, where users have it on their phone consistently. As it stands now, the app uses bluetooth to check if the user has been in contact – more than 15 minutes, less than two metres apart) with anyone who’s tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 14 days. People who have tested positive for the virus will receive a one-time key to punch into the app, which is how the app knows if that person has COVID-19.

“What we’d really like to see is an app we could download when we’re at a celebration or a party or a church service so that we can identify those specific times when there may be someone with COVID-19 who was in that vicinity,” Henry said during a Monday (Oct. 26) press conference where she reported a record-breaking number of weekend cases.

READ MORE: B.C. shatters COVID-19 records with 817 weekend cases; masks now expected indoors

“Right now it’s very non-specific and it goes back 14 days, which to us doesn’t make a lot of sense because people are not infectious for 14 days before their tests comes back.”

Henry said B.C. isn’t giving up on the app and is still continuing to negotiate with the federal government, but that an agreement has yet to be reached. She recommended that people do download it if they’re travelling.

“But it’s not at the point it would helpful for what we’re managing here in B.C. four our pandemic right now.”

The app is currently available in Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Saskatchewan. So far, the app has been downloaded 4,805,411 times and

2,387 one-time keys have been used.

READ MORE: Trudeau dodges questions on Trump, breaks down COVID Alert app on ‘22 Minutes’

READ MORE: Rollout of COVID-19 Alert app faces criticism over accessibility


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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