Ontario launches new contact tracing strategy ahead of possible second wave

"Privacy was our number one issue," says Premier

Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced a new contact tracing strategy and notification system in anticipation of a potential second wave of COVID-19 in the fall.

The contact tracing strategy includes a new contact tracing app, announced by Prime Minister Trudeau Thursday morning.

The app will use Bluetooth technology and notifies users anonymously if they have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 14 days.

Ford “really hopes” people will download the app.

“Privacy was our number one issue, and we will continue to promote it, it’s going to protect you, it’s going to protect families,” Ford said during his daily news briefing from Queen’s Park.

The app was built using open-source code by the Ontario Digital Service and runs on Bluetooth technology, so it won’t collect personal information or use location services or geotagging.

The app was developed by Shopify, Blackberry and the Ontario government and uses software developed by Apple and Google that runs in the background of your mobile phone.

Premier Ford thanked volunteer teams from Ottawa-based Shopify and Waterloo-based Blackberry for helping with the “made-in-Ontario” app.

The app uses software developed by Apple and Google that runs in the background of your mobile phone.

“This means you don’t have to do anything else, just download it,” Trudeau said.

The Prime Minister called the app COVID Shield, while Ford used the name COVID Alert.

The app will use Bluetooth technology and notifies users anonymously if they have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 14 days.

“As we take our contact tracing strategy to the next level today, I want to thank the federal government for providing more boots on the ground and supporting a privacy-first app that will protect both Ontarians and Canadians alike,” Ford said.

Ontario plans to have the app available for download on July 2 for iPhones running iOS 5.0 or later and for Android phones running Android 6.0 or later.

The Ontario government’s enhanced strategy focuses on strengthening and standardizing case and contact management by:

  • Ensuring that all new cases and their close contacts are identified early, contacted quickly, investigated thoroughly and are followed up with daily for up to 14 days;
  • Supporting public health units with up to 1,700 additional staff from Statistics Canada;
  • Improving technology tools by modernizing the integrated Public Health Information System (iPHIS) through the implementation¬†of a new custom-built COVID-19 case and contact management system;
  • Launching a privacy-first exposure notification app to alert Ontarians when they may have been exposed to COVID-19.