Contact tracing apps ‘not sufficient to contain Covid’
THERE is no “real-world” evidence contact tracing apps work and, even with near-universal use, they could still fail to stop the pandemic spiralling out of control, a paper has claimed.
Research published in the medical journal Lancet Digital Health found that even under an optimistic scenario of 80pc of people downloading an app and more than 90pc of people obeying quarantine, the technology alone would not be enough.
The research, from University College London, said “automated” contact tracing using apps was “unlikely to contain Covid-19”. It said other measures including physical distancing and pub closures may be needed. The team looked at more than 4,000 studies on automated and partially-automated contact tracing and found 15 relevant papers. But most of these studies were either based on modelling, or were observational or case studies, or did not include the full information needed to assess the effectiveness of apps.
Dr Robert Aldridge, of UCL Institute of Health Informatics, said: “We do not have good evidence about whether a notification from a smartphone app is as effective in breaking chains of transmission by giving advice to isolate due to contact with a case of Covid-19 when compared to advice provided by a public health contact tracer.
“We urgently need to study this evidence gap and examine how automated approaches can be integrated with existing contact tracing and disease control, and generate evidence on whether these new digital approaches are costeffective and equitable.”
The research said manual contact tracing, using follow up phone calls and visits from public health officials, would also be needed in any system, and that apps had the “potential to support that but they are not a panacea”.
Research from University College London said automated apps could be useful but were not a panacea