Google and Apple's contact tracing tech helped save thousands of lives, says study

NHS COVID-19 app
NHS COVID-19 app (Image credit: Android Central / Alex Dobie)

What you need to know

  • A study has found that the NHS contact tracing app developed by Google and Apple helped save thousands of lives in the UK.
  • According to the study, the app was regularly used by over 16 million people last year.
  • The digital contact-tracing app may have averted nearly 594,000 infections.

The Exposure Notifications API, which was launched as a joint effort between Google and Apple last year to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, might have helped save thousands of live in the UK. A new study published in Nature claims the NHS app, which uses the Exposure Notifications API, prevented between 4,200 and 8,700 deaths in England and Wales. The app is available on all Android phones with Google Play services — including the best cheap Android phones.

The study investigated the epidemiological impact of the NHS COVID-19 app from its launch on September 24 until the end of December 2020. It claims the app was used by around 16.5 million users during the period and sent out 1.7 million exposure notifications. The researchers used two complementary approaches to estimate the number of infections prevented by the app. While the first one used a "modelling" approach based on the number of notifications and SAR, the second one used data collected from local authorities.

According to the study, the number of averted cases was 284,000 on the "modelling" approach and 594,000 using the "statistical" approach. These numbers suggest the app helped prevent between 4,200 and 8,700 deaths in England and Wales. The researchers believe that the statistical estimate is much closer to reality as the app helped users "maintain a greater distance from others than they otherwise would have done, aware that the app monitors distance and could later advise quarantine." The study also claims the NHS app's full integration with testing helped make it more effective than other similar contact-tracing apps.

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Babu Mohan
News Writer