Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the province would join a nationwide smartphone app program to improve COVID-19 contact tracing, if “we have the right app” that addresses privacy concerns.
On Friday, Ford said with the Ministry of Health, public health, and federal agents, there are over 2,000 contact tracers working in Ontario.
The premier acknowledged that a coronavirus contact tracing up would help when certain parts of the economy open up.
“It’s so important to have the proper app make sure we do contact tracing and tracking – when people start flying from Vancouver to Toronto to out east – those apps have to be able to talk to each other,” the premier said.
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However, Ford acknowledged that it’s difficult to get individuals on board with the app, due to privacy issues.
Alberta has created the ABTraceTogether app, but Ford said after talking to Premier Jason Kenney, only 20% of people are utilizing it.
Ford even mentioned Singapore, acknowledging even with strict protocols they’ve only been able to get a maximum of 25% the population online using the app.
“Privacy is important. People believe in privacy,” Ford added. “We need to make sure we have the right app.”
Health Minister Christine Elliott said they are currently reaching about 92% of contacts within 24 hours.
She said an app might help with the remaining 8% of contacts.
“We are actively looking for the right app for Ontario right now for contact management – if they’ve been in contact with someone with COVID-19, it gives them opportunity to follow up with healthcare provider.”
To date, 28.3% of Ontario patients contracted the virus from close contact of a confirmed case, 34.4% from community transmission, 6.4% from travel, and 31% still pending.
Elliot added that the province is doing active contact tracing right now and would look to using an app that will work with the rest of the country.
Earlier on Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government will have more to say about a contact tracing app “in the coming days or weeks.”
“It is our expectation that when the time comes for that to be released, we will be able to recommend strongly to Canadians a particular app that will help us manage the spread of COVID-19,” Trudeau said.
To date, the province’s total is now 24,628, but 76.2% of the cases have been resolved, with 18,767 patients recovered. A total of 2,021 people have died.