Is there any evidence that contact tracing apps for COVID-19 work?

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RogerE
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Is there any evidence that contact tracing apps for COVID-19 work?

Post by RogerE »

***Moderator note, these posts have been split from the thread discussing new coronavirus stamps issues***

A question: has there been any firm evidence that contact tracing apps have worked successfully in tracing spreaders of coronavirus? In Australia it seems that they have not effectively identified contacts that were not known by other means.

/RogerE

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Re: Has there been a Coronavirus-themed stamp issued yet?

Post by norvic »

That's not the point.

The point is to contact people who (may) have been in close proximity to people who have tested positive, so that they can isolate for the required period.

These people may not be infected - but if they are, then isolation prevents them infecting anyone else.

In the UK 'hospitality' venues - cafes and restaurants have been taking name & phone number since before the app became more widely available for the same purpose. Now such venues (and others) can display a QR code which I can scan with the app. If another person visiting that location tests positive the system will notify me so that I can isolate and get tested if I develop symptoms.
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Re: Has there been a Coronavirus-themed stamp issued yet?

Post by RogerE »

So, is there much evidence that people are being traced that would not have been contacted otherwise?

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Re: Has there been a Coronavirus-themed stamp issued yet?

Post by norvic »

I don't know what you mean?

Do you mean, is there evidence that people are traced using one of the apps who would not have been traced by some random act?

The restaurants who took details could have contacted everybody.

The app does it automatically. There is, as far as I know, no data available to show how effective the app is - that is, I don't think there is any published data showing how many alerts have been triggered by the app backing software being alerted that an infected person had been at a particular location. I haven't read of it, but then I don't read everything on all the news websites.

Tell you what, why don't you google "IS NHS contact tracing app effective", and tell us what the results are. I'll get back to stamps safe in the knowledge that (a) I have the app, and (b) I'm not going into any restaurants.
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Has there been a Coronavirus-themed stamp issued yet?

Post by RogerE »

norvic wrote:
11 Oct 2020 03:52
Do you mean, is there evidence that people are traced using one of the apps who would not have been traced by some random act?
I meant: is there evidence that people are traced, using one of the apps, who would not have been traced by the human tracers who have been on the job since the beginning (interviewing individuals who have tested positive, following up with tracing and interviewing of contacts who can be identified by any available relevant information, and presumably requiring testing followups for those contacts).
Tell you what, why don't you google "IS NHS contact tracing app effective", and tell us what the results are. I'll get back to stamps safe in the knowledge that (a) I have the app, and (b) I'm not going into any restaurants.
I am happy that you are among the many who are cautious and sensible about how they are coping with the ongoing threat. Keep safe and well.

Following your suggestion, I did search based on "IS NHS contact tracing app effective". I found the following in an early report in the respected journal New Scientist:
John Newton at Public Health England made clear that the app will operate almost entirely separately from the human tracers. Asked how the two interact and share data, he said: “People who use the app, they have symptoms, they are invited to take a test, a test is sent to them. If they test positive that data goes straight to Public Health England and that gets them into the [traditional] contact tracing system.”

Van-Tam would not disclose what effect the app is expected to have on the reproduction number, or R0, the average number of people infected by someone with the virus. Current estimates for the UK put R0 around 0.7 and the government’s goal is to keep it below 1 as lockdown measures are relaxed.
https://www.newscientist.com/article/2242609-we-still-dont-k ... p-will-be/
A much more recent post, from BBC News, looked likely to be informative, but turns out to focus on how the app works and what its privacy safeguards are. It does include:
According to modelling done by the University of Oxford, the app can significantly reduce deaths and hospital admissions if at least 15% of the population use it.

But real-world data on how effective such apps have been in other countries using them is scant.

And so far, they have been offered when the levels of infection have been relatively low, meaning the chance of any user receiving an alert has been slim.

Most people have yet to be convinced to install them too - about a third of the population in Ireland, 22% in Germany and only about 4% in France have done so.
https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-54250736
I offer an extract from one more recent source:
There are “major questions unanswered” about the effectiveness of the NHS Covid-19 App, a charity has said.

The app was officially launched in England and Wales on 24 September, after months of setbacks and multiple trials.

But the Health Foundation has raised concerns about the lack of published evidence from the app’s pilots, which it says could put public trust at risk.

“With a virus that is transmitted as quickly as Covid-19, the automated contact-tracing feature of the new NHS app could prove invaluable in reducing its spread,” Josh Keith, senior fellow at the Health Foundation said. “But while evidence from recent pilots of this technology remains unpublished, major questions about its effectiveness are left unanswered, including how it will protect those communities who are most vulnerable to the virus yet may be among the least likely to use the app.”

A trial of the app was launched in August on the Isle of Wight, in the London borough of Newham and among NHS Volunteer Responders. It followed a trial in May of a previous version of the app, though this was ultimately abandoned by the government in June.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) is yet to publish its findings from the app’s trial.

Keith said in failing to publish data from the trial, the government had “missed a vital opportunity” to gain public trust in the technology. “The effectiveness of the app will be dependent on the public downloading it and changing their behaviour based on its advice,” he said. “In failing to yet share the findings of the pilots, government has missed a vital opportunity to build people’s confidence in the new technology. It is now essential that how the public uses and responds to the app is continuously evaluated to ensure it is working effectively and any improvements are identified.”

Prior to the app’s launch parliament’s science and technology committee pressed Simon Thompson, the app’s managing director, for answers on findings from the trial including how many people downloaded the app. Thompson said the trial had been “very encouraging” but refused to provide figures, instead saying evaluations would be published “as soon as practically possible”.
https://www.digitalhealth.net/2020/10/major-questions-unansw ... id-19-app/
As norvic's comments suggest, I should have phrased my original post somewhat along the following lines:
A question: has there been any firm evidence that contact tracing apps have worked successfully in tracing and contacting those potentially infected with coronavirus? In Australia it seems that they have not effectively identified contacts that were not known by other means.
From the extracts above, it looks as if there is also no firm evidence being offered by authorities in the UK.

/RogerE

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Re: Has there been a Coronavirus-themed stamp issued yet?

Post by norvic »

Aside from the trial areas, one of which was an island, the nationwide (ie England) app has been available for less than three weeks, so I would say any results are sketchy at the least.
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Re: Has there been a Coronavirus-themed stamp issued yet?

Post by RogerE »

When I first posted my question about evidence regarding effectiveness of the Covid-tracing app on mobile phones, I assumed other countries had introduced it at much that same time as Australia did.

Look at this Australian post from 6:00am, Aug 24, 2020:
https://thenewdaily.com.au/news/coronavirus/2020/08/24/covid-safe-app-coronavirus/
NewDaily(24 Aug 2020) wrote:Nearly four months has passed since the federal government introduced its COVIDSafe contact tracing app, touting it as a “critical tool” in the fight against the coronavirus. Do you remember it?

The app, which works to quickly alert users who may have had contact with a positive case, was promoted to us as essential to lifting lockdown restrictions.

At its launch, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he wanted at least 40 per cent of Australians to download the technology, but has been eerily quiet ever since.

Tech experts told The New Daily this silence is “very significant”.

On Saturday, Mr Morrison said the app had now surpassed seven million downloads nationwide — an improvement from 6.4 million in July, but still well short of the government’s target.

Even still, there’s no way of knowing how many people actually activate the app when they step outside their homes.

The resounding silence

David Vaile, a surveillance and data protection expert at The University of New South Wales, said “the fact we’ve heard nothing for ages is very significant”.

“By doing this in a secretive way and not wanting that core data out about whether it’s working, the government has deprived themselves from the positive and negative feedback they would’ve gotten from other developers,” he told The New Daily.

Mr Vaile suggested COVIDSafe app updates should form part of the daily coronavirus briefings about fatalities and case numbers.

He added there needed to be better communication around the app’s effectiveness or risk giving people a “false sense of security”.

“If you think your phone buzzes saying ‘Warning: an infected person is near you’, it doesn’t do that,” Mr Vaile said.

“It has a log, which rather ineffectively claims to detect proximity with certain criteria.”

Theoretically, the app keeps a record of all of our casual contacts who were within a 1.5 metre radius of us for at least 15 minutes.

If someone walks past you in the street and sneezes in your face, however, the app won’t register that encounter.

A fast-moving project

We’re now in late August.

Victoria is just over halfway through a statewide lockdown, fresh cases have been linked a Queensland detention centre and new infections have emerged from Sydney quarantine hotels and pubs.

Yet there has been little talk of the COVIDSafe app — especially not in Victoria where case numbers have been highest.
Still no transparency here on how effective the app is proving to be. Hence my first post on this subject.

The quote here is paralleled (with time lag) by the commentaries from the UK that I sourced after following norvic's suggestion to search for posts with "IS NHS contact tracing app effective".

My original question was to the world, not just the UK. No responses other than norvic's posted yet...

/RogerE :D

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Re: Is there any evidence that contact tracing apps for COVID-19 work?

Post by Canada stamper »

Moderator note - I have split this discussion out from the thread showing new coronavirus stamp issues, so it will get more visibility.

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Re: Is there any evidence that contact tracing apps for COVID-19 work?

Post by RogerE »

Thanks Moderator Jean. It was tending to occupy too much "air" on the previous thread, which is properly focussed on philatelic items related to Covid-19.

/RogerE :D

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Re: Is there any evidence that contact tracing apps for COVID-19 work?

Post by ViccyVFU »

On a popular satirical comedy program on Friday night, they did quote some stats about our latest "track and trace app". Sixteen million downloads, but only ONE alert sent out. 2,000 track and trace staff are set to be laid off in the coming weeks.

If you think about it, it cannot seriously be expected to work, as without constant surveillance of the individuals concerned, you have no idea if they were "in the same cubicle", or "separated by two glass screens".

No requirement to carry a phone, no requirement to use the same phone every day, no requirement to download it. There is actually no requirement to tap in to many venues (although most now do have the quick response code visible for those that want to play ball).

Having read the blurb on the Government website, when they call "they will ask for your date of birth". Any inbound call requesting that would usually be "hung up, before they had finished their sentence", such is the proliferation of scams "needing that information".

They go to pains to explain that they will never ask for credit card info, or offer discounted test kits, but people are receiving those calls, all shrouded behind the wall of secrecy the Government want "for data protection issues".

Somebody rings up, wants you to disclose personal information, and says you are grounded "based on a person they are not allowed to name". Seriously? Its a scammers paradise.

We had a confirmed case in the village, and the family name "did the rounds, faster than a postman on a Ducati".
Nobody holds it against them, on the contrary, everyone just wants to help them through the difficult period.

It could come from anywhere, a supermarket trolley, a "walk by" sneeze, passing a packet of crisps round, a gate on a public footpath. You need to be vigilant for you .... "Big Brother" is only really doing "track and trace" so they give "the illusion of assistance, under the shroud of surveillance".

"People are irresponsible anywhere near pubs and bars .... if you don't want to catch it, steer clear of them".
There is no App that counters "the stupidity of an individual tanked up on ale".

I imagine we are set to do "the lockdown hokey-kokey" on and off "through to next March" (Spring 2021)).

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Re: Is there any evidence that contact tracing apps for COVID-19 work?

Post by Derbyboi2 »

I have just arrived back from travels to Morocco, then Morocco to Dubai, back to Morocco and then returning to the UK. On my travel to Morocco I had to obtain a PCR test and Blood tests not less than 48 hours before travel. Without a negative test I could not travel. Before travelling to Dubai I had to obtain a PCR test not less than 96 hours before
arrival in Dubai and also download the contact tracing ap on my phone.
To return to Morocco I had to undergo another (negative) PCR test not less than 72 hours before arrival.

On return to the UK I had to fill in a form and nothing else. No attempt at contact tracing. No testing.I have to self-isolate for 14 days but if I break the quarantine who would know unless I am stopped by the police whilst I go out!

A joke!

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Re: Is there any evidence that contact tracing apps for COVID-19 work?

Post by Derbyboi2 »

And.....In Dubai and in Morocco mask wearing outside your home is mandatory and strictly enforced by the police. I saw no-one without a mask in either country.

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Re: Is there any evidence that contact tracing apps for COVID-19 work?

Post by Allanswood »

The problem I find with our tracing app is that its 15min until it triggers a "contact" record with someone who was within your bluetooth range.

Go for 14min and break the range limit and no record, 1 minute later you're back in range again and no record.

Thats a tremendous ammount of time for a casual link with a stranger.

I can follow a superspreader around the supermarket and never even be in range, let alone for 15 minutes and touch many items he has, or walked into his cough or sneeze residue or even say hello how's the kids, have a 5min breathing in his waste air chat, or grab his trolley as he walks off and no record kept.

The app should have logged in 15 seconds, not 15 minutes. There's hardly anyone I dont know, that I would be in contact with longer than that.

The best defence for my casual contact is to wipe down my trolley before I use it, only touch what I'm buying and I sanitise my hands on the way out, back to my car.

The app is there, I have it on all the time, so for about 16hrs of every day, its logging contact with just one other person, my wife!
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