But app does not replace contact investigations
Manitoba is encouraging employees using government-issued mobile phones to use the Health Canada COVID Alert, particularly those working at Manitoba Hydro, Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries and Manitoba Public Insurance.
“More than 7,350 cellphones are used by public servants across government and at Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries, and Manitoba Hydro,” said Reg Helwer, minister of central services. “This was an obvious and easy additional action we could take to reinforce the value of the app and to encourage more Manitobans to use it.”
A notification will be sent to enable users to download the app, removing the need for each employee to access the app store and download the app. However, employees must still make the personal decision to open and initialize the app.
The app provides digital COVID-19 exposure alerts once the app is downloaded to a smartphone, said Cameron Friesen, minister of health, seniors and active living Minister, on Sept. 30.
The 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 about potential exposure risk without sharing any personal information.
Someone who tests positive for COVID-19 will be provided a one-time key from public health officials when they call to provide test results. By entering the key into the app, it will notify other app users who have been within two metres of a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 for at least 15 minutes over a 24-hour period within the last 14 days. Subscribers who receive this exposure alert can then assess their risk and seek testing, if needed.
“The COVID Alert app is one more tool that Manitobans can use to be aware of a possible exposure to COVID-19,” said Friesen. “The introduction of the app in the province builds on our public health contact tracing efforts to inform people of possible exposures and ensure they are given the advice they need to reduce the spread of the virus.”
Previously, Manitoba and its local partners enhanced and expanded B2B Manitoba, the health and safety online marketplace app, to allow businesses and not-for-profits to contract health and safety services.
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, according to the government.
Friesen also noted that 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.
“It’s important for people to remember to focus on the fundamentals to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 to others,” said Friesen. “Stay home if you are sick, reduce your number of contacts, wash or sanitize your hands often, physically distance from others and wear a mask if you cannot, or as required in your community.”
Currently, the COVID Alert app is also available in New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Saskatchewan.
As of Oct. 8, the app has been downloaded 4,051,648 times and 1,083 one-time keys have been used, according to the federal government.
Ontario previously launched a new voluntary interactive screening tool to assist parents, students and staff with the daily assessment of COVID-19 symptoms and risk factors that is required before attending school. Meanwhile, Air Canada is planning to test out wearable contact tracing technology using a Bluetooth-enabled app.