Government of Canada welcomes interim report from the COVID Alert Advisory Council
March 17, 2021 | Ottawa, ON | Health Canada
The COVID-19 Exposure Notification App Advisory Council was established to ensure the COVID Alert app meets the highest standards in public health outcomes, privacy and technology. The Council members reflect Canada’s regional and cultural diversity, and possess a wide range of expertise, including health, privacy, data governance, science and innovation.
Today, the Minister of Health, the Honourable Patty Hajdu, the Minister of Digital Government, the Honourable Joyce Murray, and the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, the Honourable Francois-Philippe Champagne, welcomed the Council’s Interim report on the Social and Economic Determinants of App Adoption, Retention and Use.
The report highlights that the Government of Canada has worked quickly on many of the recommendations of the Council such as the features to narrow the exposure window, allowing users, specifically health care workers, to turn the app on and off, and allowing users to clear the exposed state following a negative test result.
As noted in the report, the number of one-time keys currently being entered into the app is low compared to the number of positive COVID-19 cases across Canada. For the app to be an effective tool, it must be easy for users to receive and upload a one-time key following a positive diagnosis.
The Government is committed to urgently resolving this issue. Currently, provinces and territories are responsible for issuing one-time keys, as they are the ones that can confirm positive diagnosis and the process can be different in each jurisdiction. The Government in partnership with provinces and territories is now exploring mechanisms to issue the one-time keys automatically to all persons who test positive for COVID-19, in a privacy-preserving manner.
As well, Canadians can help by asking for a one-time key from their local public health authority if they do not immediately receive one from their public health unit following a positive diagnosis. Individuals can also consult the app or contact their local health authorities to find out how to get a one-time key.
“We welcome the recommendations the COVID Alert Advisory Council has given to guide the COVID Alert app and thank them for their work. We will continue to work urgently with provinces and territories to ensure that all COVID Alert users who are diagnosed with COVID-19 receive a one-time key.”
The Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Health
“Like all digital projects, this is an iterative process. We’re continually reviewing and improving COVID Alert to improve its effectiveness, and as such we welcome the work of the COVID-19 Exposure Notification App Advisory Council.”
The Honourable Joyce Murray
Minister of Digital Government
“We thank the Advisory Council for their guidance on the COVID Alert exposure notification app. We look forward to their ongoing advice and recommendations for improving this important public health tool and call on Canadians to download COVID Alert on your mobile phones, and do your part to keep our communities safe.”
The Honourable Francois-Philippe Champagne
Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry
COVID Alert is available for Canadians as a free download from the App Store or the Google Play Store. As of March 7, 2021, there have been more than 6.3 million downloads of the app.
Since the app first launched in July 2020, more than 20,000 people have voluntarily input their one-time key to notify others around them after testing positive for COVID-19. More than 80% of COVID Alert users who receive a one-time key entered it into the app. However, as the council’s report highlights fewer than 5% of positive cases have obtained a one-time key from their public health authority.
In Ontario, users can receive a one-time key through the Ontario Public Health Test Results Website. Those who cannot access the eHealth Ontario portal, would get a one-time key via their local public health unit.
In Quebec, users can request a one-time key by calling 1-855-228-4253 after receiving a positive COVID-19 diagnosis from the public health unit.
Users in Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Saskatchewan can receive a one-time key from their local public health authority when they receive their positive test results and/or during the contact tracing process.
Visit Canada.ca/covid-alert for more information on how to obtain a one-time key in each province and territory. The COVID Alert app has also been updated to ensure individuals complete the entire process when entering their one-time key before exiting the screen.
The Government of Canada continually reviews and improves COVID Alert. Updates are based on public health guidance, provincial and territorial needs, user research, feedback and updates to the underlying framework by Apple and Google.
Office of the Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Health
Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat
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