OTTAWA -- An infectious disease specialist suggests the fact only 110 COVID-19 infection reports have been logged into Canada's new COVID Alert App is creating a false sense of security for people.

The new alert app for smartphones has been downloaded more than 2.2 million times across Canada since its launch on July 31. Ontario is the first province where people can use COVID Alert to report a COVID-19 diagnosis.

In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, Health Canada says only 110 Ontario residents who tested positive for COVID-19 entered the information into the app to notify others of a possible exposure to novel coronavirus.

Since the COVID Alert App was launched just over a month ago, Ontario has reported 3,088 cases of COVID-19.

Speaking on CTV Morning Live Wednesday morning, CTV News infectious disease specialist Dr. Abdu Sharkawy was asked if he was disappointed with the low number of positive infections reported to the app.

"No question about it. One of the big selling points of this app was the fact that it was pretty much air-tight in terms of privacy concerns and I think that's probably what's top of mind for most people in terms of downloading it or using anything that could be an exposure notification app," said Dr. Sharkawy.

"The fact that those numbers are so low indicates that unfortunately people are simply not telling the truth or notifying anyone if they have indeed been alerted. And that really defeats the whole purpose of the app and defeats the purpose of any contact tracing or exposure notification."

Users that test positive for COVID-19 receive a one-time key from their health authority that they can enter into the app. The Public Health Agency of Canada says when the key is entered, COVID Alert will notify other users who may have come into close contact with that person, and direct them on the next steps based on provincial public health advice.

If you are closer than two metres from someone that tested positive for COVID-19 for more than 15 minutes, the app will record an exposure.

CTV Morning Live host Leslie Roberts asked Dr. Sharkawy if the app indicating you have not been around someone that tested positive is creating a false sense of security.

"No question about it. Really this is only something that is going to work if everyone is buying in and everybody understands that when you download it, it's essentially an oath of accountability to everyone in your community that you're going to comply," said Dr. Sharkawy.

"You're going to get tested and follow through on it to make sure that you're identifying positive cases. If that's not being done quite frankly, it's a waste of time."


The story has been corrected to attribute the information from Health Canada, not the Public Health Agency of Canada.