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Alberta contact-tracing app has been used in just 32 COVID-19 cases to date

Click to play video 'Kenney asks all Albertans to download province’s COVID-19 tracing app, won’t adopt federal app' Kenney asks all Albertans to download province’s COVID-19 tracing app, won’t adopt federal app
WATCH (Nov. 6, 2020): Alberta Premier Jason Kenney asks Albertans to download the ABTrace Together app over the federal COVID-19 tracing app citing its integration into the province’s tracing system as the main reason. – Nov 6, 2020

AB Trace Together, Alberta’s COVID-19 contact-tracing app, has been used to track 32 positive cases and identify 141 close contacts as of Jan. 13.

Read more: ABTraceTogether app has been used to track just 19 cases of COVID-19

As of Wednesday, 299,845 Albertans had downloaded the AB Trace Together app, 66 per cent on iOS and 34 per cent on Android.

On Jan. 13, Alberta reported having 12,838 active COVID-19 cases and a total of 113,618 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic.

That means, the AB Trace Together app has been used in about 0.028 per cent of cases.

Read more: 20 million Canadians still don’t have full access to the COVID Alert app. Why?

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To compare, the federal COVID Alert app has been downloaded 6,024,289 times.

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 674,473 cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Canada, as of Jan. 13.

The “one-time key” on the federal COVID app has been activated by positive cases 15,251 times, which means it has been used in approximately 2.26 per cent of cases.

Read more: Pressure grows for Alberta and B.C. to join COVID Alert app as cases surge

The national COVID Alert app is currently available in nine provinces; Alberta is not one of them.

Read more: ‘We haven’t made a final decision’ on federal COVID-19 app, Alberta premier says

Alberta officials have consistently pointed out that the two apps don’t operate the same way, and that the federal one is not a contact-tracing app.

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Dr. Deena Hinshaw has described it as “an exposure notification app.”

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“Because of the way it was built, it doesn’t feed into the contact-tracing system; but rather simply directly notifies when there’s been more than 15 minutes within two metres of a phone of someone who tests positive,” Alberta’s chief medical officer of health explained on Nov. 2.

COVID Alert uses Bluetooth to exchange random codes with nearby phones. Every day, it checks a list of random codes from other users who tell the app they tested positive. If you’ve been near a user who tested positive within the last 14 days, through these random codes, you’ll get a notification.

Read more: Alberta launches ABTraceTogether app to improve contact tracing, fight COVID-19 spread

AB Trace Together is integrated with provincial contact tracing.

Using Bluetooth, the app builds a record of other app-enabled smartphones it’s been in close contact with (within two metres for a cumulative 15 minutes). The encrypted information is held on the phone for 21 days. If a user tests positive, they can consent to uploading that record to AHS for human contact tracers to reach out to other users, via phone numbers the users registered in the app.

Read more: iOS update will allow ABTraceTogether app to work in background on iPhones

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“They’re totally different apps,” Health Minister Tyler Shandro said Nov. 17. “Ours is a contact-tracing app. It’s meant to be one of our many tools to be able to relieve the pressures on our contact tracers, to be able to help them. Instead of them manually interviewing people, it’s to relieve some pressure on our contact tracers.

As of Nov. 17, it had been used to track 70 close contacts of only 19 positive cases since it launched in May.

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