Eighty per cent of the Island's population has to download the federal COVID-19 app for it to be effective, according to a former senior scientist at the Ottawa Public Health Agency.
The free app — activated on P.E.I. Thursday — alerts users if they have been exposed to someone in the last 14 days who has tested positive for the virus. It is now active in Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Saskatchewan.
"We need to have high levels of uptake," said Chris Robinson, who is now a sessional instructor at UPEI.
"The more people who use it, the more effective it will be."
If two app users have been in contact for more than 15 minutes and are closer than two metres, that contact is logged. Then if one of those people tests positive for COVID-19, the other will receive a notification.
"COVID Alert is going to capture those strangers that you don't know but who you've otherwise come in close contact with," he said.
"That's where it has its real value."
'For everyone's protection'
The app doesn't collect any personally identifiable data or track the user's location, according to a news release from the provincial government.
Islanders who do receive a notification from the app saying they have been exposed to the virus should visit a drop-in testing clinic.
Those who test positive will receive a one-time code to enter into the app, which will then alert other app users who may have been exposed.
"Even though your unaware of that stranger's name, the phone will nonetheless have collected information about that person sufficient to notify them should you or one of the individuals become positive."
The app has already been downloaded over four million times, according to the federal government. And while Robinson said it's not a permanent fix to the pandemic, it is another tool that can be used to reduce the impact of the virus.
"It's for everyone's protection. The fact that we have a low level of prevalence at the moment does not mean that there is a zero risk."
The app is only available to people with smartphones made within the last five years and can be downloaded through the App Store or Google Play.
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