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Canada launches COVID-19 contact tracing app as restrictions loosen

Canada on Friday launched a nationwide contact tracing app to help inform Canadians when they may have been exposed to the coronavirus, part of a broader effort to contain it as businesses and public spaces reopen across the country.

By Kelsey Johnson

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

The government used code from Shopify Inc SHOP.TO and worked with Blackberry Inc BB.TO on app security. The technology was developed with Apple Inc AAPL.O and Alphabet Inc's Google GOOGL.O.

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

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

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

The government is finalizing conversations with other provinces and hopes the app will be 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.

Alberta has its own app, with 231,000 registered users. It is limited, however, by a flaw that requires some users to run it in the foreground for it to work properly.

The province has been unable to fix it, because the federal government is preventing Apple from developing an update, Alberta health ministry spokesman Tom McMillan said.

Alberta has not decided whether it will participate in rollout of the federal app, he said.

(Additional reporting by Julie Gordon and Rod Nickel; Editing by David Gregorio)

((Kelsey.Johnson@thomsonreuters.com; +16132356745;))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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