Can COVID-19 contact tracing apps stop the spread?

Can COVID-19 contact tracing apps stop the spread?

While experts advise contact tracing apps as supplementary aid only, new research suggests that applications as such can help mitigate the spread of the virus even only a few uses it.

The usefulness of contact tracing apps has been among the debated topic since the pandemic crippled the global economy. It is particularly challenging that application as such breaches data privacy.

However, a new study shows that contact tracing apps can significantly slow down the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus.

Contact tracing apps may stem the spread

A study published by a team of researchers from Oxford University and Google revealed that with a 15% usage of contact tracing applications alone, the death rate could be reduced by 6% while infections could go down by 8%, Reuters reports.

On the other hand, according to a separate statistic presented by Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Medicine and the Alphabet Inc. Unit, infection, and death rates could be reduced by 15% and 11%, respectively.

But that is if the app is used by 15% of the population and with the help of a well-staffed contact-tracing team.

Can COVID-19 contact tracing apps stop the spread?

“We see that all levels of exposure notification uptake levels in the UK and the U.S. have the potential to meaningfully reduce the number of coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and deaths across the population,” the co-lead author of the study, Christopher Fraser, said in a statement.

The study was based on data gathered from a digital tracker system that resembles one that Apple Inc. and Google made recently.

Digital tracing systems as a support

The authors of the said research, however, noted that contact tracing apps are not a standalone solution. And that the said model rather represents a “dramatic simplification of the real world.”

It does not also include people’s cross-country movement that adds to the spread of SARS-CoV-2.

A separate study from University College of London also stressed that while digital tracing systems are useful, applications like that cannot be a substitute—but rather complement—manual tracing conducted by the human workforce.

A systematic review of 15 studies also points to the same conclusion, emphasizing the aid of mass testing, social distancing, and manual contact tracing for it to be efficient.

Moreover, Robert Aldridge of UCL also asked to conduct further research concerning the many COVID-19 contact tracing apps governments have and are about to launch.

“We urgently need to study this evidence gap and examine how automated approaches can be integrated with existing contact tracing and disease control strategies,” Aldridge said, per MIT Technology Review.

The research published by Oxford University and Google has not been peer-reviewed as well.

Images courtesy of Daria Shevtsova, Zydeaosika/Pexels

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