What you need to know
- The COVID Alert app in Canada has reduced cases in the thousands and has saved nearly 100 lives.
- The new study found issues collecting data where people didn't download the app, had a language barrier, or where the app was unavailable.
- Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia saw high success rates.
Over the course of five months, Canada's COVID Alert smartphone app has reduced the number of cases in the country between 6,284 and 10,894, an independent study has concluded.
The study, which was conducted by four researchers from McGill University in Montreal, indicates that the app has saved between 57 and 101 lives but that only a few Canadians have used it.
The COVID Alert app saved many lives with a relatively modest rate of adoption.
"With even relatively modest adoption, as in Newfoundland and Labrador, our modeling suggests that the COVID Alert app was able to avert a substantial proportion of cases," Erica Moodie, a biostatistics professor at McGill, told the Toronto Star. Moodie is one of the researchers involved in the study.
"Wider adoption could have averted many cases and subsequent deaths," she said.
The study released on Tuesday took raw data from the app, which was available on some of the best Android devices, between March and July 2021; the app was available to Canadians as of July 2020.
17% of the Canadian population reportedly downloaded the COVID Alert app.
According to the report, the app was downloaded 6.6 million times (this represents 17% of the population), but it should be noted that users in British Columbia, Alberta, the Yukon, and Nunavut were not able to report a COVID-19 diagnosis.
The research was focused on locations where more than 200 notifications were sent. Those included Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, and Saskatchewan.
Some data was also hindered as some provinces used their own contact tracing app, like in British Columbia and Alberta. In addition, data could have also been affected as some people's first language is not English or French, or users who were older, the report noted.
Researchers also found it challenging to look at data due to privacy concerns, the report noted. It added that Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia saw "dramatically higher ratios of averted cases and averted deaths" as a result of higher adoption. "In Newfoundland and Labrador, for example, the upper bound of the number of cases averted was greater than 60% of total recorded cases in the period of analysis," the report indicated.