Help for COVID Alert

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How to check if your phone supports COVID Alert

For iPhones:

  1. Go to “Settings.”
  2. Choose “General.”
  3. Choose “About.”

If the Software Version is 12.5, 13.5 or higher, your iPhone supports COVID Alert.

For Android:

  1. Go to “Settings.”
  2. Choose “Google.”

If your phone supports COVID Alert, you'll see “COVID-19 Exposure Notifications” at the top of the screen. If you don’t see this option, try updating your operating system and your Google Play Services.

Keep the app up to date

Make sure your app is up to date. To check this, go to the App Store or Google Play Store and search for "COVID Alert." If the app's not updated, you should see an option to update. If the only option is to open, it means your app is up to date.

How to use the one-time key

  1. Go to the menu and choose "Enter your one-time key" at the top.
  2. Enter the one-time key you got after you were diagnosed.
  3. You may give the app details to help narrow down when you were likely most infectious.
    • First, the app will ask if you've had symptoms. This information helps figure out when you were likely most infectious so the app only notifies users who were near you during that time. It will never be sent or stored outside your phone. You can choose from 4 answers:
      • yes, you've had at least one symptom in the last 14 days
      • no, you've had no symptoms
      • you're not sure
      • you prefer not to say
    • If you've had symptoms, you'll be asked for the date the symptoms started.
    • If you've had no symptoms or if you're not sure, you'll be asked for the date you took your test.
    • If you prefer not to say, you can just share exposures to notify the users you were near in the last 14 days.

Nobody will get any information about you or the time you were near them. They will only be notified that they were exposed recently.

Problems with your one-time key

If you get an error when you try to enter your one-time key, it could be due to one of the following reasons.

Not checking for exposures

Make sure your app is up to date.

If you’ve updated the app and it’s still not checking for exposures:

  1. Open the app, and if the app hasn’t checked recently, it will force a check.
  2. If that doesn’t work, “Force stop” the app and then reopen it.

To ensure exposure checks are working, look at your exposure logs in your phone’s settings. You may see a series of exposure checks happening at the same time as the app starts to catch up on the missed days.

If you continue to have issues, contact us.

Phone issues and operating systems

COVID Alert uses the Google-Apple Exposure Notification framework. It allows Bluetooth to estimate how close you are to other phones that have the app installed. The framework is available on the following operating systems:

Location services and Android phones

COVID Alert has no way of knowing where you are. You can check the app’s permissions in your phone’s settings. You’ll see it doesn’t have permission for location services.

For some Android users, location settings must be on for Bluetooth technology to work. However, no location information is stored or transmitted. Google has built in safeguards for government exposure notification apps. Such apps are unable to know your location because they rotate random IDs assigned to your device. This means your individual device can’t be tracked.

The random IDs don’t contain information about your location when they’re exchanged with other devices in the system. No location data are ever logged. Your phone doesn’t transmit:

  • to Google
  • to any government database    
  • your location to other phones

Android 6, 7, 8, 9 or 10

“Location” must be on for Bluetooth technology and COVID Alert to work.

Android 11

COVID Alert works without having to enable “Location Services.” If COVID Alert is still requiring location services to be turned on, you may need to update the app through Google Play.

If iPhone notifications don’t match the app's home screen

Some iPhone users receive weekly notifications with a number of potential exposures. These notifications are sent from your iPhone's operating system, not from COVID Alert. If you receive one of these notifications, open COVID Alert to check your exposure status before taking action.

If you have a screen that says “You have been exposed,” follow the actions on the screen.

If you have a screen that says “No exposure detected,” then COVID Alert hasn’t detected a possible exposure.

If you upgrade to iOS 13.7 or 14.x, you’ll receive a monthly reminder that the app is working. If you prefer not to receive these reminders, turn off the monthly notifications in your phone's settings.

  1. Go to “Settings.”
  2. Choose “Exposure Notifications.”
  3. Scroll down and turn off “Monthly Update.” 

If you have 2 smartphones

Install the app on the phone you keep with you the most. If you share one of your phones with a family member, you can install the app on both phones.

If you have a work phone and a personal phone, install the app on your personal phone. Keep it with you at all times, even at work. If you test positive, you'll only get 1 one-time key. Enter it into whichever phone has the most exposure history. This will usually be your personal phone. 

If you get a new phone

Apple and Google have told us that there's no way to transfer your exposure logs to a new phone or back them up. It's one of the ways the app protects your privacy.

Steps to take if you get a new phone:

  1. Keep COVID Alert installed and active on your old phone if possible.
  2. Download COVID Alert on your new phone.
  3. A ctivate COVID Alert on your new phone by opening the app and following the prompts.
  4. Carry both your old and new phone with you for 2 weeks.
  5. Make sure both phones can connect to the Internet with either a data plan or Wi-Fi at least once a day.
  6. If you test positive, you’ll only get 1 one-time key from your public health authority.
    • If you get a one-time key during this 2-week period, enter it into whichever phone will have more exposure history. In the first week, that would likely be your old phone. By the second week of carrying both phones, that would likely be your new phone.

After 2 weeks:

  1. Switch to using your new phone only.
  2. Delete COVID Alert from your old phone.
    • Your exposure information is automatically deleted after 15 days. 

Older phones

Phone requirements are set by Apple and Google, and are based on the operating systems.

As of January 2021, the app works on iPhone 5s, 6 and 6 Plus.

Unfortunately, some older Android phones can't currently support the new operating systems required by the Google-Apple Exposure Notification framework.

COVID Alert is one part of our public health effort to limit COVID-19. The app does not replace manual contact tracing by local public health authorities. Manual contact tracing is available to everyone in Canada, along with other important resources.

Problem with some Android phones

Some Android users have told us that when they try to enable the app, nothing happens. We're looking into this problem. It may be an issue with phones that aren’t running Google Play Services. 

If you’re not sure the app is working

To confirm that the app is working, look for the exposure logs in your phone's settings. The app checks for exposures every day when it's connected to the Internet, from 1 to 6 times per day.

Unable to activate COVID Alert on iPhones

On some iPhones, users may be asked by the app to “Enable COVID Alert” from the main screen. If you’re having issues enabling the app, we recommend you reset your location and privacy settings.

To do this:

  1. Go into your phone's “Settings.”
  2. Choose “General.”
  3. Choose “Reset.”
  4. Tap “Reset Location and Privacy.”

How to make sure it’s working for iPhones

iOS 12.5, 13.7 or 14:

  1. Go to “Settings.”
  2. Choose “Exposure Notifications.”
  3. Choose “Exposure Logging Status.”
  4. Tap “Exposure Checks” to see when your phone last checked for exposures.

iOS 13.5 or 13.6:

  1. Go to “Settings.”
  2. Choose “Privacy.”
  3. Choose “Health.”
  4. Choose “COVID-19 Exposure Logging.”
  5. Tap “Exposure Checks” to see when your phone last checked for exposures. 

How to make sure it’s working for Android phones

  1. Go to “Settings.”
  2. Choose “Google.”
  3. Choose “COVID-19 Exposure Notifications” to see when your phone last checked for exposures.  

If the app is crashing

  1. Close all the apps running on your phone, including COVID Alert, and then restart COVID Alert.
  2. If that doesn't work, turn your phone off and then back on.
  3. If that doesn't work, update the app through the Apple Store or Google Play store.
  4. If that doesn't work, contact us.

This is a new app, and we're constantly working to improve it.

Turning the app on and off

All users should be using the app at all times. Only those who are consistently wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), such as health care workers, should feel comfortable turning off the app. They should turn the app back on as soon as they’re no longer wearing PPE.

If you get a negative test result after exposure

If you get an exposure notification, the app will link you to guidance for your province or territory. Once you’ve gotten your area’s guidance, you can then reset the exposed screen so you can receive new notifications after:

From the purple “Exposed” screen in the app, tap “Negative test result?” If you want to proceed, tap “Dismiss alert” then confirm your choice.

Dismissing the alert won’t delete any exposure information in your phone’s settings. 

Multiple exposure notifications

If you’ve been exposed more than 1 time in the last 14 days, the app will show which dates you received an exposure notification.

You’ll see up to 3 dates of recent exposures. If you clear the exposed state after receiving a negative test result, all the dates will be removed.

If you live in an apartment, condo or rooming house

COVID Alert uses Bluetooth to estimate how close people are to each other by measuring the strength of their phone signals. It ignores phones that are more than 2 metres away or in different rooms or units.

However, the technology isn’t perfect. Bluetooth signals can be affected by things like metals or even microwave ovens. Currently, there's no way for the app to overcome this effect.

We continue to analyze how it works in different environments, such as apartment buildings. We may further improve the app as we learn more.

Exposure dates

COVID Alert and the Google-Apple Exposure Notification framework it uses were designed to protect everyone's privacy. For this reason, there's no way to find out when exposures took place. In your exposure logs, all you’ll see are dates when the app found a match. Those aren’t the dates of the actual exposure.

“Provided Key Count” (Apple) or “Number of keys” (Android) 

This is the total number of random codes related to a positive test result in the national database. This number doesn’t tell you anything about your exposure status. 

“Matched Key Count” (Apple) or “Number of matches” (Android) 

This is the number of random codes related to a positive test result that may have been within Bluetooth range of your phone. Having a number above 0 for the matched key count doesn’t necessarily mean you've been exposed. These codes could come from phones that were more than 2 metres away or were only near you briefly. 

Vaccination and COVID Alert

While vaccines continue to rollout across the country, we recommend continuing to:

Deleting the app

You can delete the app at any time. Please let us know if you have a problem or a suggestion for improving the app. We want to hear from you, especially if you’re deleting it because of a problem.

If you delete COVID Alert after reporting a diagnosis, you won’t be able to upload your random codes, even if you re-install it.

If you delete the app, the random codes stored on your phone's “Exposure Log” will be automatically deleted after 15 days. You can delete your “Exposure Log” yourself from your phone's settings for “COVID-19 Exposure Logging.”

Removal on iPhones with iOS 12.5, 13.7 or 14

  1. Go to “Settings.”
  2. Choose “Exposure Notifications.”
  3. Choose “Exposure Logging Status.”
  4. Choose “Delete Exposure Log.” 

Removal on iPhones with iOS 13.5 or 13.6

  1. Go to “Settings.”
  2. Choose “Privacy.”
  3. Choose “Health.”
  4. Choose “COVID-19 Exposure Logging.”
  5. Scroll to the bottom and choose “Delete Exposure Log.” 

Removal on Android phones

  1. Go to “Settings.”
  2. Choose “Google.”
  3. Choose “COVID-19 Exposure Notifications.”
  4. Choose “Delete Random IDs.” 

Battery life and data usage

The Google-Apple Exposure Notification framework uses low-energy Bluetooth, so it's designed not to use too much of your phone's battery. However, battery life varies between different models and operating systems. The app runs in the background and shouldn’t affect anything else you use your phone for.

COVID Alert needs an Internet connection at least once each day to work. It can be through Wi-Fi or a data plan. When it's connected, it uses a very small amount of data, about the same as receiving a single email per day.

Security and privacy

We made COVID Alert with a focus on security and privacy.

Effective February 9, 2021, COVID Alert will be updated to collect some metrics that will help us evaluate the app’s performance and its effectiveness in limiting the spread of COVID-19. Collected metrics:

Consult the privacy notice for details on:

Travelling with the app

Keep COVID Alert on, no matter where you are in Canada.

In some provinces or territories, you can’t yet report a COVID-19 diagnosis through this app. You can still receive an alert about potential exposures. When you're travelling, keep your province or territory set to where you live.

In other countries

COVID Alert can’t tell you about possible exposures from people using other countries' exposure notification apps. 

Airplane mode

COVID Alert will continue to work in Airplane mode, as long as Bluetooth is turned on in your phone's settings.

Contact us

If you still have questions, contact us.

Phone: 1-833-784-4397

Teletypewriter (TTY): 1-800-465-7735

Email: hc.AlerteCOVIDAlert.sc@canada.ca

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