Alberta launches tracing app as economy slowly reopens
Alberta has launched Canada’s first phone app to trace contacts of people infected with the coronavirus, as the country slowly restarts its economy.
Increased testing and contact tracing are key parts of plans to reopen economies that have largely closed to slow the pandemic’s spread, with no proven vaccine or treatment available.
According to Reuters, contact tracing is currently being done manually, by asking infected patients to recall with whom they have interacted.
Alberta’s voluntary app, called ABTraceTogether, uses Bluetooth wireless technology to identify phones, which also have the app installed, that have come into 2-metre contact with an infected person for at least 15 minutes within a 24-hour period.
Once a person with the app becomes infected, Alberta Health Services will ask the person to upload encrypted data that will allow tracing workers to reach others who have been in close contact.
No geo-location data is collected, and data about encounters are stored encrypted on phones.
“The faster Alberta Health Services contact tracers can inform exposed people who were close contacts, the quicker we will be able to prevent potential outbreaks,” Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said.
Alberta has the third-highest case count in Canada – 10 per cent of the national total – and one of Canada’s most aggressive testing programs. Many of its cases are due to outbreaks in meat plants and nursing homes.
Ontario is looking at options for apps, provincial Health Minister Christine Elliot told reporters.