Contact tracing app could help in fight against Coronavirus

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Experts advising the NHS have said that a contact tracing app could help stop the pandemic, by alerting smartphone users if they have come into contact with someone that is infected, or if they themselves are a risk.

The university of Oxford Big Data Institute have modelled a ciy of 1 million people to provide evidence and insights to the UK and Europe to show that an app, if used by 80% of smartphone users, can effectively reduce the risk of the coronavirus.

Instead of speaking to a health advisor about whether or not they are infected with the virus, users will respond to an on-screen questionaire to see if they are at risk and what measures to take.

Professor Christophe Fraser, senior author of the latest report from Oxford University’s Nuffield Department of Medicine said: ‘Our models show we can stop the epidemic if approximately 60% of the whole population use the app and adhere to the app’s recommendations. Lower numbers of app users will also have a positive effect; we estimate that one infection will be averted for every one to two users.’

‘By openly sharing our models and our algorithm we are providing governments and health services with the epidemiological tools to compare and evaluate different strategies for contact tracing alongside other epidemic control approaches. Enabling all countries to consider optimising the app’s epidemiological settings before and after launch will help to ensure countries make the greatest possible contribution towards controlling the epidemic.’

Originally, the team planned to use a system that uses GPS locations and QR code scanning, but they opted for bluetooth signal instead, as it provides more privacy. The app is yet to go public.

If you would like to see the models and simulations from the Big Data Institute, you can view them here in this report.