The UK’s Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has publicly revealed the findings of a four month study of the NHS’s COVID-19 contact tracing app.
According to reports, the app has been downloaded 21.63 million times. Data also found that over 1.7 million Welsh and English citizens have been notified to isolate, and 825,388 positive test results were recorded by users. This led researchers to estimate that, with the help of the app, roughly 600,000 possible cases were prevented since launch.
This conclusion was found due to research conducted by the Alan Turing Institute and Oxford University, who combined resources to determine if the app could play any role in bringing case numbers down. Research Michelle Kendall, who worked on the project, commented to ZDNet about her team’s expectations for the project.
“We knew that about half of all infections come from people who aren’t at the time showing symptoms. From that, we saw that to stay one step ahead of the virus we needed fast contact tracing. In theory, the app could play a really big role in this. So, it’s been great to see these preliminary results matching up with that.”
The app works by using bluetooth to send out alerts between people who have the app downloaded to a device. If two people are in contact with one another and one is infected, an automated notification is sent to both users to make sure they’re socially distant. The DHSC believes the app is the most effective way to notify citizens about potential exposure. Alerts can be sent out as quickly as 15 minutes after the information is entered into the system.
The promising results of this study hope to give the public a better idea of how the app could continue to slow down the rapid development of the coronavirus. At the moment, only 16.5 million UK users regularly check the app, which is significantly less than the amount of people who have the app installed.
“It’s been really quiet since the app launched, and a lot of people might have concluded that it is not working properly,” commented Lucie Abeler-Dörner, Scientific Manager at Oxford University. “So it is important to say it is working properly, and that it can actually make a huge difference in your local community.”