Health Canada is working to release an update of the COVID Alert app designed especially for health care workers after requests from nurses and doctors.
The new version would make it easier for the app to be turned on and off without disabling Bluetooth, the federal agency said in an email.
“We are making this change after requests from health care workers who are consistently in appropriate personal protective equipment and want to turn off the app during their shift,” the statement said.
“We have always recognized that health care providers working with COVID-19 patients may wish to turn off the COVID Alert app while in the workplace.”
All Canadians are asked to download and use the app. It uses Bluetooth to exchange random codes with nearby phones, checking a list of random codes from other users who have told the app they’ve tested positive.
“The reason why we’re considering the change is because we want to be able to give health care workers the same type of protection that other Canadians can enjoy through the app, but also recognition of some of the measures that they already have in place to protect themselves while they’re at work,” said Lucie Vignola, the director general of Health Canada’s COVID-19 task force.
“They’re typically wearing personal protective equipment. They have sanitation happening. They have all types of other safeguards. So the use of the app might actually give them a few extra notifications that might not be reflective of their actual situations.”
The app sends a notification to users who are near someone who has tested positive within the last two weeks, prompting the user to get a COVID-19 test and, in theory, reducing the spread of the virus.
“The Bluetooth aspect is important because it’s not always an option to turn off your Bluetooth, because for a number of people, Bluetooth is connected to medical devices that they may be wearing,” said Vignola.
“While the exposure notification app is voluntary, the more Canadians who use it, the more useful it will be in protecting our loved ones and limiting further infection,” Health Canada said.