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Burt pleads for use of hi-tech WeHealth app to fight coronavirus

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David Burt, the Premier, asked residents and businesses to download and WeHealth Bermuda app (Photograph by Kyle McNeil)

Residents and visitors were asked by the Premier today to download the WeHealth Bermuda app to aid the fight against the coronavirus.

David Burt pleaded with employers to insist that staff working in offices use the technology and suggested gyms and restaurants could ask their customers to adopt it.

He said: “More than 4,000 people in Bermuda have already downloaded the app and that number continues to increase daily.

“Our families, neighbours and community depend on us to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, which is why we urge all Bermudians and visitors to the island to download the app from the App Store or Google Play.”

Mr Burt highlighted the anonymity and privacy offered by the technology.

He said: “If a person is tested and they are positive for the coronavirus and they have downloaded the app, they will receive a randomised verification code from the Ministry of Health.

“The person will enter that code into the app and WeHealth Bermuda will then anonymously notify other WeHealth app users that an infected person was in close proximity, even if they do not know that person

“Because WeHealth Bermuda does not use or collect personal information or track users’ locations, these notifications will be completely anonymous.

“Instead, WeHealth Bermuda uses secure Bluetooth signals to measure how long and how close different app users were together.”

Mr Burt added that responsibility will be on users to take the necessary steps if they get a notification about a possible exposure to the coronavirus.

He said that once the app was downloaded no further action was needed and that it used “minimal battery life”.

Mr Burt added: “I cannot stress it enough, encourage your friends, your family and co-workers to download the WeHealth Bermuda app.”

“Employers, if you have persons in your office who are required to be in your office for work purposes, I implore you to insist that they are using the WeHealth Bermuda app.

“Employers who may have devices which are company devices, I would ask that you have your IT departments to ensure that this app is automatically downloaded and placed on phones.”

Mr Burt said: “I cannot stress how vital the wide use and installation of this app is necessary in order for us to reduce the spread.”

He added: “I think that you can see places such as gyms and restaurants and other places which are open indoors will ask their customers to have the app.

“That provides protection to the business and that provides peace of mind to the consumer as well.”

Mr Burt said: “Pairing WeHealth Bermuda exposure notifications with manual contact tracing and other preventive measures like wearing a mask, physical distancing and frequent handwashing means better protection for us all.

“As we navigate through this spike, we have to use every possible tool to contain the spread.”

Mr Burt said that a pilot of the technology at the University of Arizona helped to reduce the rate of infection from a daily average of 160 new cases to five over the course of a few weeks.

He added: “It’s important to note – especially as in Bermuda right now we have the issue of mass quarantine of individuals – the results at the University of Arizona were achieved by employing targeted quarantine of individuals at high risk of infection because they were notified by the app, rather than mass quarantines or a complete lockdown.”

The Premier insisted that Bermuda would be one of the first countries “to deploy a fully privacy compliant countrywide anonymous notification application”.

He added: “This app is completely anonymous, it does not require registration, it does not ask you for your phone number, it does not ask you for your e-mail address and your data is not shared with anyone.”

Mr Burt thanked the people involved in developing the app before its launch today.

They included staff from the Department of Information and Digital Technologies, the Ministry of Health, the Department of Communications and the WeHealth team overseas.

The Premier gave “special thanks” to Martin Walsh of the information and digital technologies department and Denis Pitcher, of the fintech unit “who have been driving this initiative”.

· For more information about the app visitwww.gov.bm/wehealth.

For Mr Burt’s full statement, see Related Media

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Published December 11, 2020 at 3:31 pm (Updated December 11, 2020 at 3:56 pm)

Burt pleads for use of hi-tech WeHealth app to fight coronavirus

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