Nova Scotia hoping to introduce COVID Alert app in near future

A person uses the COVID Alert app pictured on a cellphone in Kingston, Ontario on Thursday, Aug 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Lars Hagberg

Nova Scotia is in the process of signing off on the federal COVID Alert app that notifies residents when they may have been near an individual who tested positive for coronavirus.

After a cabinet meeting on Thursday, Premier Stephen McNeil said he is hoping to see the app utilized in the province as soon as possible.

“There’s a few details we need to sign off with the government and then we’ll announce it, but we’re signing off on it,” McNeil told reporters.

The app has already been introduced in several provinces in Canada, and its usage is expected to continue to grow.

With it, people who test positive for COVID-19 are given one-time keys, by provincial public health, to enter into the app. The app then notifies users who have come into close contact with the positive case for longer than 15 minutes.

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In the past, Nova Scotia’s chief of health Dr. Robert Strang wasn’t on-board with the COVID Alert app. But on Thursday, McNeil said it just took some time to analyze how the app worked in other provinces.

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“They were looking at what that would mean in terms of testing in the province… could we handle extra capacity?” McNeil said.

“Across the country… we’ve seen a massive uptake of people downloading the app, but we haven’t seen the system to be overburdened by an extra group of testing.”

McNeil said the app is “just one more option that we could use to continue to track the virus in our own province.”

Click to play video: 'Why some provinces haven’t joined federal COVID-19 Alert app'
Why some provinces haven’t joined federal COVID-19 Alert app

Nova Scotia also announced the introduction of online assessment for COVID-19 testing.

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McNeil said assessing online as opposed to calling 811 eliminates one step in the process.  If the online tool states an individual should get tested for COVID-19, the information will go directly to NSHA.

As the province has received criticism on long wait lines for 811 assessment lines, McNeil says the online tool will also save people time on waiting for someone to pick up in the first place.

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