Holding back the tide - Mobile Phone Apps
Although it can provide a definitive solution to pandemic threat, even the most accelerated vaccination programme takes too long; therefore, our efforts have turned to other solutions to control the spread of infection or the severity of disease.
On 5th March 2020, Christophe Fraser, Professor of Pathogen Dynamics in the NDM, and Dr David Bonsall submitted a paper to Science describing their idea that digital contact tracing with mobile phones could play a role in helping to contain the epidemic spread of the SARS-COV-2 virus. Described by many people as brilliant and inspirational, the concept is theoretically generalisable to the control of any contagious disease. Professor Fraser’s proposal led to the development of Phone Tracking Apps by the NHS, Google, Apple and government agencies internationally. The UK government played an important role in making this important UK technological and conceptual advance available to its partners overseas.
Contact tracing apps have been introduced across Europe and other countries. In the UK, on the 5th May 2020 an App developed by NHS-X was trialled on the Isle of Wight. One month later, there was evidence this had reduced transmission on the island but issues with the proximity detection system on iPhones led to it being abandoned. On the 13th August, a second trial using a Google/Apple platform was launched on the lsle of Wight and in the London Borough of Newnham.