An imperfect tool: contact tracing could provide valuable reductions in COVID-19 transmission if good adherence can be achieved and maintained.
Davis EL., Lucas TCD., Borlase A., Pollington TM., Abbott S., Ayabina D., Crellen T., Hellewell J., Pi L., Medley GF., Hollingsworth TD., Klepac P.
Emerging evidence suggests that contact tracing has had limited success in the UK in reducing the R number across the COVID-19 pandemic. We investigate potential pitfalls and areas for improvement by extending an existing branching process contact tracing model, adding diagnostic testing and refining parameter estimates. Our results demonstrate that reporting and adherence are the most important predictors of programme impact but tracing coverage and speed plus diagnostic sensitivity also play an important role. We conclude that well-implemented contact tracing could bring small but potentially important benefits to controlling and preventing outbreaks, providing up to a 15% reduction in R, and reaffirm that contact tracing is not currently appropriate as the sole control measure.