Millions of people could soon be asked to use a contact tracing app to slow the spread of COVD-19.
So, what is the app? Will you have to use it? And, is it safe to use?
How will contact tracing work?
Contact tracing has been proposed as a method for slowing the spread of coronavirus – as well as other infectious outbreaks.
It’s already used in other areas, such as sexual health clinics where patients are asked to contact previous sexual partners.
At the moment, anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 is asked to contact anyone they’ve had contact with so they can self-isolate. This is mostly friends and family. However, this could be extended and used alongside an automated location-tracking app for mobile.
Extensive contact tracing is already being used in many countries, including Hong Kong, Germany, and Singapore. Others are using a less intense version, but are still trying to track people who may have had contact with an infected person.
Soon, an app could be rolled out in the hope that social distancing restrictions could be eased without the threat of the virus spreading rapidly.
The app will be available to download on smartphones, and will use bluetooth to alert the user if they have contact with someone who has the virus – it could then recommend that person be tested or go into self-isolation.
Could this mean the end of lockdown?
In a number of countries, contact tracing, when combined with other measures, has helped to lift social restrictions. For example, South Korea used this method and managed to reduce cases without a mass lockdown.
If widely adopted, it’s believed it could help ease restrictions elsewhere, too.
As a mobile app is much less labour intensive than phone tracing, this could be a very effective strategy for dealing with the pandemic.