World News – CA – As coronavirus resurfaces, ‘time has come’ to push COVID Alert app: experts


Ahead of a second wave of coronavirus in Canada, experts say it’s time to talk more seriously about the country’s exposure notification app, COVID Alert

Since its launch in July, the app has been downloaded over 27 million times But July was a different time from the pandemic

When it launched in Ontario, around 80 to 100 people tested positive every day Fast forward eight weeks and those numbers have climbed to over 400, renewing the push to control the spread

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If contact tracing for COVID-19 stops at the border, can it really be effective?

If anyone still needs an incentive to download the app, that’s it, said Emily Seto, engineer and health technology specialist at the Center for Global eHealth Innovation at the University of Toronto

“This could be the time when this app really shows its benefits,” she said “In other words, if people choose to use it”

COVID Alert has been touted by federal ministers and public health officials as a powerful tool to curb the pandemic in Canada

Despite the relatively low number of downloads, Canada’s top doctor Theresa Tam said earlier this month that the app needs time to prove its effectiveness

« As societies open up, schools, colleges and other places restart, now is the time to try it, » she said on September 3.

The encouragement was echoed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who took to national television Wednesday evening to warn Canadians of a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic

Seto agrees, but worries the word was not spread correctly She said now is the time to make sure the message is « loud and clear »

The pressure for mask wearing and hygiene practices has been widely and successfully disseminated, she said, and « the same tactics can be applied regarding COVID Alert »

“There was a lot of communication around wearing masks for returning students, as well as physical distance. It would have been a good opportunity to send a strong message about the benefits of the app for parents and high school students »

From the day of the application’s deployment (July 31) to September 22, only 375 people who tested positive for COVID-19 recorded their diagnosis.This is a far cry from the more than 1,000 new cases nationwide daily

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The app does not collect information on the number of people who were subsequently notified of the exposure

However, there has been an apparent increase in activity over the past four weeks since Sept 1, 263 people who tested positive for the virus recorded their diagnosis to inform others of possible exposure The app was also downloaded 490,000 times during the same period, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada

Since the recent increase in cases is driven by young people – often meeting in large groups – the message about the benefits and safety of the app needs to be laser-focused, said Dr Isaac Bogoch , an infectious disease expert based at Toronto General Hospital

« You need consistent messages, consistent reminders, and this has to be done with consideration of age, language, and culturally appropriate messages to get maximum participation, » he said. / p>

« Like anything else, if you take your foot off the gas, people will lose interest and may not do it »

The German tracking app has been downloaded more than 18 million times since its launch in June and has been touted by the government as a key tool in the country’s efforts to contain the virus Unlike the one in Canada, the app can provide users with their COVID-19 test result, sent directly to their smart phone.In its first 100 days, it was used to transmit 12 million lab test results to users

Seto said this feature is extremely useful and, if possible in Canada, would likely drive adoption. But the app already has its limitations, which Seto says could be a big factor if people choose to use it. download first

The app is only available for download on iPhones with at least iOS 135 and Androids with at least version 6 Although this limitation has been criticized, “we are still a long way from a large percentage of people with compatible phones actually use it, ”Seto said

Canada’s COVID alert is strictly voluntary It uses Bluetooth data to ping all devices that may have had close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19

The infected person should be tested first and then enter this positive diagnosis into their smartphone The app considers close contact to be an interaction that lasts at least 15 minutes and occurs within two meters of distance, which is determined by the signal strength of each device in this interaction

It does not keep any personal identification data As long as the Bluetooth function is activated, users can be notified

Read more:
Can’t download the COVID Alert app? Your operating system may be too old (or new)

But since the app is voluntary, it is the responsibility of the person who has tested positive to log this anonymous information into the app to alert others to potential exposures

It is also to be rolled out or adopted across the country It is currently available in Ontario, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador and, as of last week, Saskatchewan It is still in progress development in Alberta and Manitoba, although Alberta has used its own provincial application for some time

Quebec and BC do not intend to use the federal app Quebec has avoided it due to alleged privacy concerns, although the app has received the blessing of the Privacy Commissioners. federal and provincial privacy and the endorsement of technology experts

« We have to remember that 22 million are not really scattered across Canada, they are mostly concentrated in Ontario and a few other provinces. The denominator is not the 38 million Canadians, » Bogoch said. p>

« But we have already seen the successes of digital tools in this pandemic We have also seen the failures of digital tools But it’s something simple, free and that offers additional benefits and security It’s that simple that « 

Given that the app was initially launched as the COVID-19 situation improved in Ontario and much of Canada, there is no reason the government should not consider a relaunch it, Seto said

“It would be beneficial to keep this at the heart of people’s concerns,” she said. “Now is the time to make another effort in terms of a campaign to get people to download”

But the app is not a panacea for the crisis we are facing, Dr Susan Bondy, associate professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, said in a previous interview

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She said it was just one piece of a bigger puzzle, and other classic methods of preventing the spread of the virus were just as important Done in tandem, it can have an impact significant, she added

« It’s just to help reduce the incredible workload of trying to identify all of the contacts of someone who has tested positive, » Bondy said

« People who are risk averse will reduce their contacts from two to zero, and people who are not risk averse will reduce it from a thousand to just 10, knowing that sometimes they will be in an environment like a store or park… This is how this application helps « 

You can download the app for iPhone on Apple here and for Android on Google Play here

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COVID Alert app

World news – CA – As coronavirus resurfaces, « time has come » to push COVID Alert app: experts



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