Military Commanders Asked To Install The COVID-19 App For Tracking The Global Response To The Virus


Image Credit – Global News


In Ottawa, the commander of the Canadian Armed Forces has encouraged his troops to download the federal government’s smartphone application for tracking the potential exposure to COVID-19 and has said that he has no privacy or security concerns about the program.

The Chief of defense staff Gen. Jonathan Vance has instead painted the app as one way in which the Canadian soldiers can be a tremendous force for good, particularly when the matter comes to preventing a resurgence of the illness in the fall.

On his message to the Defense Department deputy minister Jody Thomas, Vance said that one of the many tangible actions that they can take is to download the Government of Canada’s new COVID-Alert app onto their devices, either personal or work-issued devices.

He added that both the officers strongly recommend everyone to do so.

The call to download came as Newfoundland and on Thursday, Labrador joined Ontario as the only province that has integrated the app into their public health systems as a way to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement that a COVID-Alert app is a tool that the Newfoundlanders and the Labradorians can use to protect themselves, their loved ones, and also their communities from COVID-19.

He said that as more people use it, they can slow the spread of the virus and thereby help to prevent future outbreaks. He also added that they shall, however; continue to work with other provinces and territories so as many Canadians as possible can benefit from the app.

The uptake of the app has so far been slower than it had been anticipated since it was launched in Ontario in late July, with only 2.2 million people, or about fifteen percent of the Ontarians having downloaded it and out of the hundred and twelve people having self-identified themselves as positive.

The measure gives the hope that with Newfoundland becoming the second province to adopt it and Saskatchewan poised to follow suit, now more and more Canadians will be able to access it, which in turn will make it much more effective in the long run.

However, Quebec this week has indicated that it is for the moment holding off on adopting it, after some public consultations in which few privacy concerns were being raised. The province’s hesitancy towards the step prompted some raised eyebrows in Ottawa.

Thierry Blair, a spokesman for the Health Minister Patty Hajdu said that already the app has been downloaded by over two million Canadians and that this app does not track the location of the users and also does not collect any personally identifiable information.

Moreover, it is also an additional tool that everyone can use to prepare for a possible increase in the count of cases this fall. So there is no reason to not make it available now in Quebec.

The COVID Alert app relies on the users who test positive voluntarily by saying them so on their smartphones by using a code from their health authorities. Others who shall be using the app shall be alerted if they come in close contact with that particular person without being informed who the person is so that they can self-isolate and get themselves tested.

The government has stated that the program uses Bluetooth to exchange the randomly generated codes whenever they come within two meters of a smartphone that has the same app installed and that no personal information is being shared or gathered.

Ottawa’s local public health authority said this week that it had supposedly detected a case of COVID-19 in someone who went for a test because of an alert from the app.

Vance and Thomas acknowledged in their message to the troops that people have privacy or security concerns. But the Defense Department privacy and intelligence officials have tested the app and stated that they have no concerns.

Vance and Thomas said that while the use of the app is as of now voluntary, but for the sake of everyone’s continued health and security, they strongly encourage everyone to download and use the app.

They also said that by using the app as one of the many risk mitigation measures, they can be a tremendous force for good.

On the other hand, there have been several cases reported of Canadian Armed Forces members testing positive for COVID-19, but the military in the spring has announced that it would not reveal the force-wide numbers for reasons of national security.