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A team of medical research and bioethics experts at Oxford University are supporting several European governments to explore the feasibility of a coronavirus mobile app for instant contact tracing. If rapidly and widely deployed, the infectious disease experts believe such an app could significantly help to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Stethoscope and mobile phone

The Oxford University team has provided European governments, including the UK, with evidence to support the feasibility of developing a contact tracing mobile app that is instant, could be widely deployed, and should be implemented with appropriate ethical considerations. The Oxford University team recommends that the mobile application should form part of an integrated  coronavirus control strategy that identifies infected people and their recent person-to-person contacts using digital technology.

Professor Christophe Fraser from Oxford University’s Big Data Institute, Nuffield Department of Medicine, explains why a contact tracing app could be deployed with urgency: 'Coronavirus is unlike previous epidemics and requires multiple inter-dependent containment strategies. Our analysis suggests that almost half of coronavirus transmissions occur in the very early phase of infection, before symptoms appear, so we need a fast and effective mobile app for alerting people who have been exposed. Our mathematical modelling suggests that traditional public health contact tracing methods are too slow to keep up with this virus.'

Professor Fraser continues, 'The instant mobile app concept is very simple. If you are diagnosed with coronavirus, the people you’ve recently come into contact with will be messaged advising them to isolate. If this mobile app is developed and deployed rapidly, and enough people opt-in to use such an approach, we can slow the spread of coronavirus and mitigate against devastating human, economic and social impacts.'

Read the full story on the University of Oxford website

Watch the recent Channel 4 interview with Professor Christophe Fraser and Dr David Bonsall