July 31, 2020 / 3:39 PM / 13 days ago

Canada launches COVID-19 contact tracing app as restrictions loosen

OTTAWA, July 31 (Reuters) - Canada on Friday launched a nation-wide contact tracing app to help inform Canadians when they may have been exposed to the coronavirus, part of a broader effort to contain the virus as businesses and public spaces reopen across the country.

The government used code from Shopify Inc and worked with Blackberry Inc on app security. The technology was developed with Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google.

Canada has reported 115,799 cases of COVID-19 and 8,929 deaths, as of Thursday. Regions across the country have progressively loosened restrictions as the spread has slowed.

The app was first announced in May, with rollout set for early July in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province. It was delayed for additional testing.

Officials said Friday that while the app will be immediately available for download nation-wide, it will only be fully functional in Ontario at first.

The government is finalizing conversations with other provinces and hopes the app will be fully supported across the country in coming days.

The app uses bluetooth to send random codes between phones, and can trace and contact people who have been exposed to an individual who later informs the app they tested positive for COVID-19. Critics have said they are concerned the app could undermine civil liberties and privacy.

Officials noted that the app will not use GPS or location services, and will have no way of knowing an individual’s personal information. (Additional reporting by Julie Gordon; Editing by David Gregorio)

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