Tam backs COVID-19 alert app

Times Colonist - - Canada -

OT­TAWA — An­swer­ing crit­i­cism that the fed­eral “COVID Alert” app only works on newer smart­phones, Dr. Theresa Tam says it’s one of many tools in fight­ing the novel coro­n­avirus.

The app, re­leased last week, is meant to tell users if their phones have re­cently been close to a phone reg­is­tered to some­one who vol­un­teers that they’ve tested pos­i­tive for COVID-19. But it works only on phones re­leased in the past five years or so be­cause it needs a rel­a­tively re­cent op­er­at­ing sys­tem. Crit­ics say that will leave out poorer and older Cana­di­ans, who are more likely to use older de­vices and suf­fer worse ef­fects from the virus.

Tam said she has heard that crit­i­cism and un­der­stands it, but the app isn’t sup­posed to be a com­pre­hen­sive so­lu­tion to the pan­demic.

“It may not be the broad­est cov­er­age that you need,” Tam said Tues­day. “But what if, for ex­am­ple, be­fore you walked into a pub, be­fore you walked into a night­club or places where there may be a bunch of peo­ple you may not know, who are not in your spe­cific so­cial circle, where no­ti­fi­ca­tion is par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant?”

“De­spite these gaps, we need to have a go at us­ing it,” Tam said.

The gov­ern­ment said Mon­day that 1.1 mil­lion peo­ple had down­loaded the app.

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