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Covid-19: Tracing App

Posted: 2020/05/26 | Author: UOJO


A team of Oxford epidemiologists, mathematical modellers and ethicists has provided evidence to inform the development of the UK’s National Health Service digital contact tracing app. The app is part of the NHS’s strategy to help stop the spread of Covid-19. The app uses simple Bluetooth technology that records close proximity contacts between smartphone users. If a user then develops symptoms they can choose to anonymously alert the contacts with whom they have been in close proximity.

The Oxford team identified very early on that a large proportion of infections happen before people develop any symptoms, and that therefore a rapid and widespread solution was needed to notify close contacts of suspected cases. People who download the app will be asked to self-diagnose symptoms. The app will then anonymously notify contacts using an algorithm informed by the biology of the virus, and the physics of how respiratory viruses spread to assess the likelihood that a person may be infected and also infectious to others.

Ethicists from Oxford have also been involved in the project and have shared a number of ethical requirements for the appropriate use of the app including the importance of independent oversight, privacy protections, high standards of data security and consent.

It is hoped that many people will use the app which has the potential to greatly protect medical services and reduce the human, social and economic suffering caused by Covid-19.

Related links:
Oxford’s digital contact tracing app website
Oxford’s news release on the national launch of the app

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