Canada to roll out tracing app as cases top 100,000

Updated Jun 19 2020

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a daily briefing it will be “crucial” to increase testing and contact tracing. — AFP/File
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a daily briefing it will be “crucial” to increase testing and contact tracing. — AFP/File

OTTAWA: Canada will soon roll out a COVID-19 tracing app for smart phones, developed with help from BlackBerry and Shopify, it was announced on Thursday, as the number of cases topped 100,000.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a daily briefing it will be “crucial” to increase testing and contact tracing going forward as pandemic restrictions start to be gradually eased.

As part of that effort, he said “a mobile app that will notify users if they’ve been exposed to COVID-19” will be made available to as many as 30 million Canadian smart phone users in early July.

The app will be free to download and its use is voluntary. It is to be tested first in Ontario before a nationwide release.

If someone tests positive for the new coronavirus, their diagnosis will be noted in a national database, and others who may have come in close proximity to them will be notified through the app, Trudeau explained.

It would then be up to individuals to reach out to public health authorities.

Trudeau said this tool will help “to keep us all safe as we reopen, as we get more active. This is an approach that we are confident is going to make a big difference” in safeguarding Canadians’ health.

“At no time will personal information be collected or shared, and no location services will be used,” he added.

“The privacy of Canadians will be fully respected.”

The app announcement comes after a drop in new COVID-19 cases in Canada, despite reaching a grim milestone. Canada confirmed its first COVID-19 death on March 9 and surpassed 50,000 cases on April 28.

As of Thursday, according to data compiled by public broadcasters CBC, Canada had 100,026 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases, which have resulted in 8,307 deaths; 62,237 cases are considered recovered or resolved.

With 220.1 deaths per million population, Canada ranks 11th in the world for this death rate, behind several European countries and the United States, according to official data compiled by AFP.

Most of the Canadian infections (87 per cent) were centered in two provinces, Ontario and Quebec, which saw elderly care homes ravaged by outbreaks.

Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2020