Commentary: Do contact tracing apps have a future?

LIMITED ADOPTION AND NEW VARIANTS

To some extent, yes. Analysis of the performance of the NHS COVID-19 app from its launch to December 2020 revealed that it helped control the spread of the virus in those early days.

During this period, the app was used regularly by around 28% of the population, preventing around 600,000 cases of COVID-19 at a time when vaccines were unavailable and treatments limited.

However, the application was not sufficient to completely stop the transmission. Cases spiked through autumn 2020, pushing Britain into lockdown in November and again in early 2021.

Limited adoption, in turn, limited the impact of the app. Researchers estimated before its launch that it would only be effective in containing the virus if 60% of the total population (80% of smartphone users) used the app and followed the self-isolation advice provided by it. this. At best, the absorption was only about half of what it should be.

And since this analysis was conducted, the nature of the pandemic has evolved. The app was launched before the emergence of the more transmissible Alpha variant in winter 2020, and since then Delta and Omicron have made COVID-19 even more transmissible.

Patterns of people’s face-to-face interactions have changed as restrictions have been lifted and vaccines have reduced the threat of COVID-19.