Manitobans are being encouraged to download an app that alerts the user if they have come in contact with a COVID-19 positive patient.
While the digital tool does not replace the fundamentals or testing, the Province believes it is a step in the right direction.
“With case numbers currently on the rise, the COVID Alert app is one more tool that people can use to be aware of a possible exposure to COVID-19,” Health, Seniors and Active Living Minister Cameron Friesen says.
Someone who tests positive for COVID-19 will be given a one-time-key code from public health. The patient then inputs the code into the app. Next, the app will alert those who's phone with the app installed came within two-meters of the other person's for a total of at least 15 minutes over the course of 24 hours. The app will alert those who fit the criteria over the previous two weeks.
"The COVID Alert app does not collect personal information or health data and does not know or track the location, name, address or contacts of any user. All aspects of the app are completely voluntary," the province says in a statement.
The app uses Bluetooth technology that is sent only between the phones.
"In this case, we have one additional tool in our arsenal to fight COVID-19 but Canadians need to decide for themselves if they have the comfort level to use it," the health minister says.
Friesen says he downloaded the app this morning.
Friesen says for the app to work, 60 per cent of the population needs to be onboard. He says the biggest concern with app people may have is being uncertain of it it is safe.
"This is a challenge. I would invite people who are skeptical to do the following: go to the app site and load the app. And before you turn it on, it goes through a series of disclosures. And it provides good information on what the app does, and what it doesn't do."
Fressen says the app is designed to signal the users when they come in contact with a positive case. Every five minutes, the phones in close contact will exchange random codes.
"This is not a GPS locator beacon. This does not allow the government to store information. Nothing in your device can be gleaned or loaded."
He says the government and shared health does not get any information from user's phones and are not alerted if someone is a close contact of a COVID-19 patient.
The app does not replace contact tracing done by the province.
"The COVID Alert app does not replace contact investigations. People who do not have a smartphone or device that will support the app will still receive notification from public health officials if they have positive test results or are determined to be a close contact of a confirmed case," the province says.
Friesen says Canadians have every reason to be confident in the free app.
If a person is alerted that they are a close contact of someone who is COVID-19 positive, they will not know who said person is. Shared Health says if you have been exposed, take the COVID-19 screening test.