Skip to main content

COVID Alert app still active, but rarely used to record positive tests


Canada’s COVID-19 exposure notification app is still up and running, despite rarely being used in conjunction with positive tests and a claim by Newfoundland and Labrador’s health minister that the federal government “gave up” on it months ago.

Responding to the comments that Dr. John Haggie made on Wednesday during a public health update, a Health Canada spokesperson told that the app is still “supported” by the government and engagement data is uploaded on a monthly basis.

Haggie was asked by a reporter whether COVID Alert codes were still being issued to people who test positive, to which he responded, “The federal government gave up on [the] COVID Alert app some time ago, several months before Christmas in actual fact, they stopped supporting it. They stopped updating their dashboard.”

“The uptake was so low that the effort to maintain those sites was unreasonable given the fact it was yielding so little.”

A spokesperson from the provincial Department of Health and Community Services confirmed to on Thursday that the minister hadn’t been provided with the “most recent” information on the use of the app prior to the Wednesday briefing.

“We have been assured the COVID Alert app remains active in Newfoundland and Labrador,” the statement reads, later adding that officials there don’t always “utilize” the app as contract tracing remains the most effective way to reach people.

COVID Alert was launched in July 2020 and deemed an innovative tool to help slow community spread of the virus by pinpointing positive cases before they lead to major outbreaks.

Users who test positive are required to upload a one-time code to the app, which notifies other users who had been within two metres of the positive person in the last 14 days of a potential exposure.

It's a sometimes disjointed application. If a user is in a jurisdiction that doesn’t automatically issue a code, they are required to contact public health for one – which has caused criticism.

While the app has been downloaded 6,784,430 times as of Dec. 6, only 37,312 one-time codes have been uploaded. With more than two million cases recorded in Canada since the start of the pandemic, that means a small percentage have actually reported their positive result via COVID Alert.

British Columbia, Alberta, Nunavut, and the Yukon have held out from recommending the tool, with officials from those regions arguing that using the app would add complexity to the existing work of contact tracers.

Questions about the usage of the app come at a time when provinces and territories are shattering COVID-19 case count records as the highly infectious Omicron variant sweeps through the country.

The federal government says it is expecting an increase in engagement with the app given the current epidemiological situation. Top Stories

Local Spotlight

Stay Connected