Help for COVID Alert

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Not checking for exposures

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.

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.

For medical advice

Or information about COVID-19 symptoms and treatment:

Operating systems

COVID Alert uses the Google-Apple Exposure Notifications framework to allow Bluetooth to estimate distance from other phones. The framework is available on the following operating systems:

You can check to see if your phone will support the app.

On iPhones

Go to Settings, choose General, then choose About. If the Software Version is 12.5, 13.5 or higher, your iPhone can support COVID Alert.

On Android phones

Go to Settings, then choose Google. If your phone supports COVID Alert, you'll see COVID-19 Exposure Notifications at the top of the screen. If you do not see this option, try updating your operating system and your Google Play Services, if the updates are available for your phone.

Problem enabling 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 looks like it may be an issue with phones that are not running Google Play Services.

iPhone notifications do not match the app's home screen

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

If you upgrade to iOS 13.7 or 14.x, these notifications will instead provide a monthly reminder the app is working. If you would prefer not receiving these reminders, you can turn off the monthly notifications in your phone's settings.

To turn off monthly notifications if you have iOS 13.7 or 14

Go to Settings, choose Exposure Notifications, then scroll down and turn off Monthly Update.

New Android notifications show the app is working

If you're seeing a notification pop up and then go away, this is normal. The app now shows notifications while checking for exposures. These notifications help prevent your phone from pushing the priority of the app's functions down its processing list. This deprioritization causes the app to stop checking for notifications.

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 Exposure Notifications 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.

Location and Android phones

If your phone is using Android 6, 7, 8, 9 or 10, you need to turn on Location for COVID Alert to work. In Android 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10, to use Bluetooth scanning, Android phones need Location setting on for all apps.

While COVID Alert has no way of knowing where you are, Google may have access to your location. You can use the lowest accuracy option for Location and turn off Google Location History.

If your phone has upgraded to Android 11, it can run COVID Alert without needing Location turned on.

You can check the app's permissions in your phone's settings. You'll see that COVID Alert does not have permission to use location services.

Trouble with your one-time key

If you got an error when you tried to enter your one-time key, one of the following situations could apply:

To get a one-time key

One-time keys expire in 24 hours. If you test positive, you can get a one-time key in:

In Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Saskatchewan

If you test positive for COVID-19, public health authorities will give you a one-time key. You can only get one key.

In Ontario

If you're having trouble with your key, go back into the Test Results Website and get a new one or call your local public health authority.

In Quebec

You can only ask for a one-time key if you test positive for COVID-19. After getting your call from public health authorities, you can ask for a key at 1-855-228-4253. Do not call unless you've gotten a call from public health authorities about your positive test result.

To check if it's working

If you're wondering if the app is working correctly, you can 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.

On iPhones

The exact way you can check if the app is working depends on the iOS version on your phone.

On iOS 12.5, 13.7 or 14

Go to Settings, choose Exposure Notifications, then Exposure Logging Status. Tap Exposure Checks to see when your phone last checked for exposures.

On iOS 13.5 or 13.6

Go to Settings, then choose Privacy, then Health, then COVID-19 Exposure Logging. Tap Exposure Checks to see when your phone has checked for exposures.

On Android phones

Go to Settings, then choose Google, then COVID-19 Exposure Notifications. There you'll see the last time the app checked for exposures.

Not downloading or opening

Your phone's operating system may not be supported. You can check your phone's operating system in your phone's settings.

The app is crashing

  1. If the app has crashed, first close all the apps running on your phone, including COVID Alert, and then restart COVID Alert.
  2. If that doesn't work, try turning your phone off and then back on. (We know, it's never fun to hear this, but it really does work sometimes!)
  3. If that doesn't work, try updating the app through the App Store or Google Play Store.
  4. If that doesn't work, help us help you. This is a new app, and we're constantly working to improve it. Please tell us the nature of your problem.

To turn 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.

To stop using the app

You can delete the app at any time. If you delete the app after reporting a diagnosis, you will not be able to upload your random codes, even if you re-install it.

We'd love to hear from you if your reasons for deleting the app could help make it better.

What happens to your data

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

iPhones with iOS 12.5, 13.7 or 14

Go to Settings, then choose Exposure Notifications, then Exposure Logging Status, then choose Delete Exposure Log.

iPhones with iOS 13.5 or 13.6

Go to Settings, then Privacy, then Health, then COVID-19 Exposure Logging and scroll to the bottom to choose Delete Exposure Log.

Android phones

Go to Settings, then Google, then COVID-19 Exposure Notifications and choose Delete Random IDs.

If you delete the app after reporting a diagnosis through the app, the random codes will be deleted from the server after 15 days.

Battery life and data usage

Battery life

The exposure notification framework uses low-energy Bluetooth, so it's designed not to use too much of your phone's battery. However, battery life may be quite different between different models and operating systems. The app runs in the background and should not affect anything else you use your phone for.

Data usage

COVID Alert needs an Internet connection at least once each day to work, and it could 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

COVID Alert was made with a focus on security and privacy. It also had thorough security reviews by both BlackBerry and the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security. We have manual and automatic checks in place to ensure the integrity, reliability and confidentiality of the COVID Alert system. All data transmitted between phones and the server is encrypted.

The app intentionally does not collect any personally identifiable information, and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner was consulted throughout the app's development.

To notify people through the app

If you test positive for COVID-19, you need a one-time key to let other users know they've been exposed. The app will also ask for details to help narrow down when you were likely most infectious.

How you get the key depends on which province you're in.

To notify people you've been near:

  1. Go to the menu and choose "Enter your one-time key" at the top.
  2. Enter the one-time key you got when you were diagnosed.
  3. Give the app details to help narrow down when you were likely most infectious. You can choose not to give any details.
    1. 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.
    2. If you've had symptoms, next you'll be asked for the date the symptoms started.
    3. If you've had no symptoms or if you're not sure, you'll be asked for the date you took your test.
    4. 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 get a notification that they were exposed recently.

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.

Living situations

Apartments, condos and rooming houses

COVID Alert uses Bluetooth to estimate how close people are by measuring the strength of the signal. It is designed to ignore encounters with phones that are further than 2 metres away or in different rooms or units.

However, the technology is not perfect. Bluetooth signals can be affected by things like metals or even microwave ovens, and there's no way for the app to overcome this effect. As the app is developed and tested through research, real-world analysis of different environments, like apartment buildings and different building materials, we may further improve the app.

If you have 2 smartphones

Pick the phone you keep with you the most to download the app on to. If you share one of your phones with a family member, then it's fine to have the app on both phones.

If you have a work phone and a personal phone, install the app on your personal phone and 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 will have the most exposure history, likely your personal phone.

If you get a new phone

We've been in touch with Apple and Google, and 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. Here is what you should do if you get a new phone:

  1. Keep COVID Alert installed and active on your old phone if possible.
  2. Download and set up COVID Alert on your new phone.
  3. Carry both your old and new phone with you for 2 weeks.
  4. Make sure both phones can connect to the Internet with either a data plan or Wi-Fi at least once a day.
  5. If you test positive, you will only get 1 one-time key from public health. If that happens during this 2-week period, enter the one-time key into whichever phone will have more exposure history. In the first week, that would be your old phone. Once you're into the second week of carrying both phones, that would be your new phone.

After the 2-week period:

Trying to find out exposure dates

COVID Alert and the Google-Apple framework it uses were designed to protect everyone's privacy. For this reason, there's no way to find out when exposures may have happened. Even if you go into your exposure logs, the most you will see are dates when the app found a match. Those are not the dates of the actual exposure.

If you go into your phone's exposure logs, you will see a few pieces of information. Here's what it all means:

Provided Key Count (Apple) | Number of keys (Android): This is the total number of random codes related to a positive test result in the national database. This number does not tell you anything about your exposure status.

Matched Key Count (Apple) | 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 does not necessarily mean you've been exposed. These codes could come from phones that were more than 2 metres away, or were near you for a very short time.

Travelling with the app

Across provinces or territories

Provincial and territorial governments are working to support COVID Alert across Canada. In some places, people cannot yet report a COVID-19 diagnosis through this app. When you're travelling, keep your province or territory set to where you live rather than where you are at any given time.

It's still helpful to keep COVID Alert on, no matter where you are. That way, when people are able to report a diagnosis, you'll find out if you were near them.

In other countries

At the moment, COVID Alert cannot tell you about possible exposures from people using other countries' exposure notification apps.

Airplane mode

Once you've turned on Airplane mode, you can turn on Bluetooth separately in your phone's settings so the app can keep working.

Contact us

Phone: 1-833-784-4397

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

Email: hc.AlerteCOVIDAlert.sc@canada.ca

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