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A team of experts at the Pandemic Sciences Institute at the University of Oxford and Department of Statistics at the University of Warwick estimate the NHS COVID-19 app prevented around 1 million cases, 44,000 hospitalisations and 9,600 deaths during its first year.

A person holds a mobile phone displaying the NHS COVID-19 app

The new research, published today (22 February 2023) in Nature Communications, is the most comprehensive evaluation of the NHS COVID-19 contact tracing app to date. 

Researchers analysed the NHS COVID-19 app in England and Wales in the first year of its use – September 2020 to September 2021. They found that the app played an important role in reducing transmission of COVID-19 in England and Wales. The app experienced high user engagement, identified infectious contacts well, and helped to prevent significant numbers of cases, hospitalisations and deaths.

Professor Christophe Fraser, Principle Investigator at the Pandemic Sciences Institute at the University of Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Medicine and the paper’s senior author said, “Many of us will remember being ‘pinged’ by the NHS COVID-19 app at the height of the pandemic, and the impact that self-isolating had on our daily lives.

Our research shows that the NHS COVID-19 app worked, and it worked well. Through our analysis we estimate the app saved almost 10,000 lives in its first year alone.

The app prevented people transmitting the virus by generating notifications that they had been exposed to confirmed cases. The app’s effectiveness improved over time, particularly as rapid testing became more widely adopted, reducing the need for people to self-isolate following a ‘ping’.

We find that digital contact tracing, a relatively low-cost and rapidly available intervention is a valuable public health measure for reducing transmission in any future epidemic waves of COVID-19 or similar viruses.”

Read the full story on the NDM Pandemic Sciences Institute.