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Health Canada to end COVID Alert app notifications

The app was launched on July 31, 2020, as the pandemic began and was billed as a way to alert people if they’ve been in close contact with someone who had been infected with COVID-19, without collecting any personal data.
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The federal government is scrapping its COVID-19 alert notification app, effective immediately.

The app was launched on July 31, 2020, as the pandemic began and was billed as a way to alert people if they’ve been in close contact with someone who had been infected with COVID-19, without collecting any personal data.

However, it required users to enter a one-time key, given to them when they receive a positive PCR test result, and with many provinces reducing and replacing PCR testing with rapid testing, user keys were not being given out.

The app had been criticized as being ineffective and not living up to expectations. While 6.89 million people had downloaded it as of Feb. 1 and 456,349 notifications were sent to users about a possible exposure, only 57,704 user keys were used. From April 1, 2021, to May 31, 2022, COVID Alert identified at least 2,446 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, there have been an estimated 3.87 million COVID-19 infections in Canada since the pandemic began.

While the pandemic is not over, the decision to decommission COVID Alert comes after careful consideration following discussions with provinces and territories on the ongoing evolution of public health programming that varies in each jurisdiction,” Health Canada said in a statement on Friday.

“Furthermore, over the last few months, with less PCR testing across Canada, fewer one-time keys (OTK) were being issued and therefore fewer notifications of potential exposures were sent to users resulting in lower app usage.”

The COVID Alert App cost $20 million, with the majority of that – $15.9 million – spent on promotion and advertising, and another $3.5 million on developing and maintaining the app.

With files from The Canadian Press. 

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