Montreal

COVID Alert app will save lives, curb transmission rates, Quebec premier says

Éric Caire, junior minister responsible for government digital transformation, says the app is safe and effective. Faced with a surge of new cases in Quebec, the provincial government has abandoned its opposition to using the app.

Premier wants as many Quebecers as possible to use COVID Alert

Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador are already using COVID Alert. (Morgan Modjeski/CBC )

Quebec Premier François Legault says the federal government's COVID Alert app protects users' personal information and will serve as a key tool in curbing the province's surging transmission rates.

There are roughly six million people in Quebec who own a smartphone, and those phones can be used to save lives by downloading an app which employs Bluetooth technology to communicate with other phones — tracking every user's close, prolonged contacts of 15 minutes or more.

When somebody tests positive, they can get a code from public health to enter into the app.

The app then alerts everybody the user has come into contact with over the previous two weeks without revealing their name, the premier said in a news briefing late Monday afternoon.

"The greater the number of people who register, the greater success we will have in breaking the second wave," said Legault, calling the situation "critical" in Quebec's red zones.

"We must continue to do everything we can to limit our contacts. When someone has COVID, it is important to trace their contacts. We ask everyone to co-operate."

Legault even took a moment during the news conference to quickly download the app to show how effortless it is to contribute the fight against COVID-19, a disease that has killed thousands of Quebecers.

WATCH | Legault says COVID Alert is safe to use: 

Legault urges Quebecers to use COVID Alert app

CBC News Montreal

3 months agoVideo
1:52
Premier François Legault says the situation is critical and the COVID Alert app is a safe tool to help trace exposure to the virus. 1:52

Privacy assured, government says

There was plenty of disagreement in the National Assembly about launching this app back in July as the three opposition parties voiced concern over personal data, Legault said.

Minister for Digital Transformation Éric Caire was charged with studying the app, and he said on Monday, it is secure as it collects no data on people — not even their names.

"Thieves cannot steal what we're not inputting," he said. "We can guarantee to Quebecers that it is safe to use this application."

Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador are already using COVID Alert, which has been downloaded by nearly three million people.

WATCH | Here's how COVID Alert works: 

COVID-19 exposure notification app rolling out in Ontario

The National

6 months agoVideo
1:58
A new COVID-19 exposure notification app is rolling out in Ontario to warn people if they have been near someone who has tested positive for the virus. The plan is to make the app national, but dates have not been set for other provinces to join. 1:58

Of those millions, Caire said, nobody has been hacked.

Its privacy protections have been lauded by the federal privacy commissioner as well as numerous privacy experts. But the app only works on iPhones and Android phones built in the last five years.

Caire said studies have shown this app, when combined with all the other public health measures like contact tracing and physical distancing, has proven to be effective — substantially dropping transmission rates if people use it properly.

"The more people who download and use it, the better the results will be," he said, encouraging young people especially to do their part. 

App is addition to public health measures

The province will not stop its manual contact tracing, which involves an internet survey or phone call from a public-health worker who goes over a person's contacts.

With the number of new infections skyrocketing in Quebec each day and the province clamping down on activities ranging from sports to dining out in red zones, Legault said it is time for all citizens to do their part by using the app.

As of Oct. 2, there were 1,423 active COVID-19 cases in Quebec schools, across the province's network of 3,089 public and private schools.

More than 820 classes have closed, Legault said, meaning about 2.5 per cent of kids aren't going to school.

Protecting schools and the health-care network is crucial in the coming days and weeks, the premier said. Activities in red zones will remain closed as long as the virus is spreading, Legault added.

That is why it is important that people do their part, he said.

"Never be less than two metres from a person you don't live with," he said. "We know that we ask for great sacrifices, but we must break the wave."

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