MONTREAL — Quebec's health ministry warned residents about mobile applications that appeared to mimic the provincial proof-of-vaccination system on Saturday, prompting a major tech giant to pull the would-be copy-cats from circulation.
The ministry issued a release saying developers have copied the visual devised for the VaxiCode app and succeeded in having look-alike products approved for download on Google Play.
"As soon as the ministry was made aware of this situation, steps were taken with Google to have the bogus applications removed as soon as possible," the ministry statement reads.
Google, for its part, confirmed the apps have since been pulled from the Play store.
The ministry release said the situation has no effect on the integrity or security of the two official government apps, which are geared towards merchants and consumers respectively.
The government said the official apps do not require access to a phone camera and do not contain ads. Anyone wanting to download the genuine app should make sure to search for the exact "VaxiCode" or "VaxiCode Verif" name with no accents and no words before or after.
Meanwhile, Premier François Legault issued a Facebook post on Saturday commenting on a one-time bonuses plan intended to lure thousands of nurses back to the public sector from retirement or private placement agencies. The plan is also meant to convince part-time nurses to switch to full-time work.
Legault said his government wants to launch a "small revolution" in the sector.
"Money won't fix all the problems, but we think it will help us to curb the staff shortage in the short term," Legault said. "We have a duty to succeed with everything you do for us. We owe you that."
Quebec said on Sept. 23 the government is budgeting $1 billion to offer full-time nurses bonuses of up to $18,000 as it tries to prevent more of them from leaving the public health-care system and entice those who have left to come back.
The plan, however, faced backlash from the largest Quebec nurses' union, which demands the elimination of mandatory overtime. The government has proposed to reduce it.
Legault said the financial incentives were only one part of the plan, but were crucial to prevent further nurses from leaving the field.
"I know what's essential for you, it's not to have more money, it's the quality of life and work," Legault said on Facebook, adding that the goal is also to eliminate mandatory overtime.
The province reported 795 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, with five more deaths related to the virus.
Health authorities said hospitalizations rose by three from Friday’s levels to 301, while the number of patients in intensive care dropped by one to 90.
The Health Department said that of the latest reported infections, 567 were among people who were either unvaccinated or who had only received a first dose within the past two weeks.
According to the province's public health institute, about 89 per cent of Quebecers aged 12 and older have received at least one dose, while 83 per cent are considered fully vaccinated with two shots.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2021.
Virginie Ann, The Canadian Press