Toronto - Jul. 31, 2020: As Ontarians continue to do their part to help stop the spread of COVID-19, the Ontario government is encouraging everyone to download the new COVID Alert app on their smart phone from the Apple and Google Play app stores. This app, which is available beginning today, lets users know if they may have been exposed to the virus. It is free, easy and safe to use. The more people who download the app, the more effective it will be in stopping the spread of COVID-19.
Work on COVID Alert was initiated in Ontario by the Ontario Digital Service and volunteers at Shopify, and was the foundation of the work by the Government of Canada. The app was developed in consultation with the Privacy Commissioners of Canada and Ontario to ensure the highest level of privacy for everyone using it.
"This important, made-in-Ontario COVID Alert app will be a critical part of our case and contact management strategy as more regions in Ontario enter Stage 3 today," said Premier Doug Ford. "This innovative tool was developed by some of the best and brightest minds in our province, working in partnership with Ottawa. As businesses open their doors and schools prepare for September, we need to help stop the spread and keep others safe by downloading this COVID Alert app."
The COVID Alert app uses Bluetooth technology to detect when users are near each other. If a user tests positive for COVID-19, they can choose to let other users know without sharing any personal information. Ontarians who receive an exposure alert can then get tested and take action to help keep themselves, their families, and their friends from spreading COVID-19 throughout the community. The app does not collect personal information or health data, and does not know or track the location, name, address, or contacts of any user.
"Built with a privacy-first approach, COVID Alert is a safe and easy-to-use tool that Ontarians can download to protect themselves, their loved ones and their community from COVID-19," said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. "This Ontario-made app keeps people informed about being potentially exposed to the virus and allows them to act quickly to stop the spread of the virus. It is a key tool in our case and contact management strategy. I encourage all Ontarians to download the app, as early detection of cases will be important as we continue to carefully reopen more of the province."
COVID Alert is a key tool to strengthen Ontario's comprehensive case and contact management strategy, Protecting Ontarians through Enhanced Case and Contact Management. The app supports the efforts of public health units, allowing the province to quickly test, trace and isolate cases of COVID-19 to stop the spread of the virus and prepare for any potential outbreaks ― without sharing any personal information.
"As Ontario safely and gradually re-opens, we continue to take a digital-first approach to delivering simpler, faster, better services to support Ontarians, including the COVID Alert app, which will leverage technology to protect the health and safety of the people of Ontario," said Peter Bethlenfalvy, President of the Treasury Board. "By making it easier for Ontarians to protect themselves, their loved ones and their communities, we continue to deliver on our commitment to build a smarter government that works for you."
If an app user receives a message from COVID Alert that they may have been exposed to the virus, they should follow the public health advice given on the app and get tested. To notify other people if an app user has tested positive for COVID-19, they can enter their one-time key from Ontario's test results website (Ontario.ca/covidresults) into the app. A message will then be sent to other app users who have been within two metres of them for at least 15 minutes within the past 14 days, without sending any information that identifies the user, or the time and place of exposure.
To stay safe as more of the province reopens, Ontarians should continue to follow public health guidelines including physical distancing with people not in their social circle, wearing a face covering if physical distancing is a challenge, washing hands thoroughly and frequently, and if anyone thinks they have COVID-19 or have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19, get tested.
COVID Alert is available for free use and download from the Apple and Google Play app stores.
All aspects of COVID Alert are completely voluntary. Ontarians can choose whether to download the app, whether to use the app after downloading it, and whether to notify others if they test positive for COVID-19.
COVID Alert does not collect any personal information, health information, or location data. It uses Bluetooth technology to send out encrypted codes to other nearby app users and was built using the Apple/Google framework for exposure notification to ensure that it leverages global best practices to protect privacy.
COVID Alert is a Digital First Smart Initiative, one of many cross-government projects that focus on better outcomes and improving the customer experience.
The Government of Canada is also working with the other provinces and territories to get their jurisdictions on board with the app in the coming weeks and months.
In addition to his responsibilities as President of the Treasury Board, Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy is now overseeing Ontario’s efforts to lead digital and data transformation for the people of Ontario, including oversight of the Ontario Digital Service.