COVID-19 digital contact tracing worked — heed the lessons for future pandemics

Article by Marcel Salathé: “During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, around 50 countries deployed digital contact tracing. When someone tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, anyone who had been in close proximity to that person (usually for 15 minutes or more) would be notified as long as both individuals had installed the contact-tracing app on their devices.

Digital contact tracing received much media attention, and much criticism, in that first year. Many worried that the technology provided a way for governments and technology companies to have even more control over people’s lives than they already do. Others dismissed the apps as a failure, after public-health authorities hit problems in deploying them.

Three years on, the data tell a different story.

The United Kingdom successfully integrated a digital contact-tracing app with other public-health programmes and interventions, and collected data to assess the app’s effectiveness. Several analyses now show that, even with the challenges of introducing a new technology during an emergency, and despite relatively low uptake, the app saved thousands of lives. It has also become clearer that many of the problems encountered elsewhere were not to do with the technology itself, but with integrating a twenty-first-century technology into what are largely twentieth-century public-health infrastructures…(More)”.