New Brunswick’s plan for COVID-19 contact tracing app thwarted by federal government

The federal government has announced plans to release a single nationwide app

New Brunswick’s plans for a COVID-19 contact tracing app have been foiled by the federal government, as reported by the CBC.

Premier Blaine Higgs says the provincial government had worked with the University of New Brunswick to create a mobile app to track the spread of COVID-19. However, it needs Google and Apple’s notification API.

To avoid a patchwork of apps, Apple and Google have restricted the use of their API to one app per country. The federal government is using the API for its own app.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on May 18th that the federal government is rolling out a nationwide contact tracing app. It is first being tested in Ontario, after which it will become available to all provinces.

Higgs says that this decision is concerning, because the New Brunswick government spent a lot of time developing its own app.

“We felt we could get up and running sooner. We felt we could get into a position and be able to supply a national app,” he told the CBC. “We all agreed … that it needed to be an app that would allow information sharing. It needed to be one that met all the criteria for privacy. And as long as it had that capability, then what difference did it really make?”

“But the federal government has chosen an app. They’re going to pay for it. I just hope we can expedite it as quickly as we felt we could otherwise,” he continued.

Ontario is expected to launch the voluntary ‘COVID Alert’ contact tracing app on July 2nd using Apple and Google’s ‘Exposure Notification System,’ which uses Bluetooth technology to share randomized codes with other nearby smartphones without identifying users.

Other smartphones are then able to access these codes and check for matches against the codes stored on devices.

If someone has tested positive for COVID-19, a healthcare professional will help them upload their status anonymously to a national network. Other users who have downloaded the app and have been in close proximity to them will be alerted that they’ve been exposed to someone who has tested positive.

The government has stressed that the app will be completely voluntary, and it is up to Canadians to decide if they want to download it, but that the app will be most effective if as many people as possible use it.

Source: CBC News