ST. JOHN'S, N.L -- Newfoundland and Labrador has signed on to use the federal government's new smartphone app that notifies users when they have been in close contact with someone infected with COVID-19.

The COVID Alert app, which is free and voluntary, was launched in Ontario last month and is expected to be available in Saskatchewan in a few weeks.

Provincial Health Minister John Haggie is encouraging residents of Newfoundland and Labrador to download the app, saying it can help slow the spread of the virus.

Haggie said today officials consulted with the province's information and privacy commissioner to ensure users' privacy is protected.

The app does not track a user's movements, nor does it share or collect personal information.

If a person with the app tests positive for COVID-19, they will be asked to enter a one-time key from Public Health, which will alert other app users who may have come in close contact with that person in the last 14 days.

"Launching COVID Alert today for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians means there is an important new tool in the toolbox when it comes to living with COVID-19," Premier Andrew Furey said in a statement.

"A lot of thought and work has gone into its development, and I'd like to thank everyone for their dedication."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 3, 2020.