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OTTAWA – On June 17, Well being Canada shut down its COVID Alert app, which was designed to assist restrict the unfold of COVID-19. The app has been disabled, and the federal government has introduced that customers can take away the app from their gadgets. The closure of the app is one other signal that the Canadian authorities is easing its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Well being Canada launched the app in July 2020 – after weeks of delay – as a nationwide publicity notification software. Greater than 6.9 million individuals dwelling in Canada downloaded the app, however solely 57,000 customers who examined optimistic for COVID-19 uploaded their take a look at outcomes. The thought was that individuals who examined optimistic for COVID-19 would inform others of the potential threat. The app was designed to inform a person if an individual who had been involved for the previous 2 weeks had examined optimistic.
In an announcement, Well being Canada mentioned, “Whereas the pandemic isn’t over, the choice to take away the COVID alert comes after cautious consideration of the continuing growth of public well being programming following discussions with the provinces and territories which are in every jurisdiction.” varies.”
The company additionally famous that as polymerase chain response testing declined throughout Canada over the previous few months, the app was issuing fewer one-time keys, so customers had been receiving fewer notifications of potential exposures. The one-time key’s a novel code that prompts the app’s notification perform and alerts individuals who might have been in shut contact with somebody who checks optimistic. Months after the app was launched, CTV Information reported that some customers weren’t getting their one-time keys after getting into their take a look at outcomes.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s workplace introduced the launch of a COVID alert. In distinction, the closure of the app was introduced in an announcement from Well being Canada.
New Subvariant Rising
Chief Public Well being Officer Theresa Tam, MD, mentioned at a June 17 press briefing that the app has been shut down as a result of indicators are pointing to a doable enhance in COVID-19 exercise. “With the primary day of summer time simply days away, the regular enchancment in epidemiological indicators is welcome and optimistic information, and they’re supportive of continued leisure and halting measures,” Tam mentioned.
“Whereas we’re cautiously optimistic in regards to the present trajectory, we’re seeing early indicators of elevated exercise in some areas. Additionally, progress in a number of emergency Omicron subgroup lineages, together with BA2.12.1, BA.4, and BA 5, which has demonstrated a progress benefit in avoiding extra immunity over BA.1 and BA2.”
The latter two lineages are the unique Omicron variations. BA.2.12.1 has develop into a significant model in latest weeks. In line with knowledge from Well being Canada, the prevalence of the brand new omicron subvariants – BA.4 and BA.5 – has elevated in latest weeks. The identical figures present that the weekly new instances in early April are trending from an upward pattern to a downward pattern. As of June 17, Canada has had 3.9 million COVID-19 instances and 41,363 deaths because the begin of the pandemic.
Tam mentioned she was not concerned within the resolution to close down the COVID Alert app.
“I believe it is necessary to innovate with such an enormous public well being problem,” she mentioned. “Not all innovation may fit within the inhabitants on the entrance, however I believe it’s cool that the present age of apps tried to make use of one other software to attempt to defend the inhabitants.”
“I am certain some classes will probably be realized, as it will be good to make use of a few of these new applied sciences as a part of our ongoing administration of outbreaks and pandemics,” Tam mentioned.
easing of restrictions
Canada, like america, has taken steps to roll again the sanctions. The federal government not too long ago suspended necessary random COVID-19 testing at airports. On June 20, the federal government suspended the vaccination requirement for home journey. It has additionally eliminated vaccine mandates for federally regulated employees reminiscent of airline workers. Vacationers getting into the nation should nonetheless have proof of vaccination.
“We do not anticipate our program to be linear,” Tam mentioned of the federal government’s strategy to COVID-19.
“There will probably be one other wave,” mentioned Dan Gregson, MD, an infectious illness specialist on the College of Calgary Cumming Faculty of Drugs in Alberta. “I do not know when it will be out in Canada, however you are in all probability going to see one other bump as these new variations come out.”
He mentioned the general public ought to be ready that “non-drug interventions” – reminiscent of masks carrying and social distancing – will be applied as soon as once more if the chance of a brand new wave of infections turns into excessive.
Richard Mark Kirkner is a Philadelphia-based medical journalist.
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