UK Apple-Google COVID-19 app credited for prevention of 600,000 infections

Posted:
in iOS
The UK's NHS COVID-19 app has been useful in reducing infections in England and Wales, the government claims, with an estimated 600,000 cases thwarted by the iPhone app.




Launched in September 2020, the NHS COVID-19 app using the Apple-Google API for exposure notifications has been a key tool in fighting the coronavirus, the UK government has claimed. Since its introduction, the app has helped notify the public quickly in cases where they have to isolate themselves.

The app has been downloaded a total of 21.63 million times across iOS and Android, data reveals, and it was the second most-downloaded free app in the App Store in 2020. The high download rate represents 56% of the eligible population in England and Wales with a smartphone.

Since its launch, the app has informed over 1.7 million people to isolate, after the detection of close contact with someone who later tested positive. Approximately 600,000 cases were said to have been prevented due to the app's presence.

The alerts to isolate have also been rapid, with reports of them arriving with affected individuals just 15 minutes after another user enters a positive result into the app.

Research from the Alan Turing Institute and Oxford University indicates that for every 1% increase in app users, the number of coronavirus cases in the population can be reduced by 2.3%.

"The NHS COVID-19 app is an important tool in our pandemic response," said Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock. "We know it has instructed hundreds of thousands of at-risk people to self-isolate since it launched in September - including me - and this analysis shows it has been hugely effective at breaking chains of transmission."

Over 3.1 million test results have been entered into the app so far, with over 800,000 listed as positive. It has also been used to check in to a venue over 103 million times, helping to identify 253 venues as "at risk" of an outbreak.

While the app largely applies to England and Wales, it is also interoperable with counterparts covering Scotland, Northern Ireland, Jersey, and Gibraltar.

The app could have been released by the government sooner, but it had significant teething problems when it was testing a version of the app that didn't use the Apple-Google system. Poor results led to the NHS team to reconsider and to adopt the tech giants' API.

According to WHO figures, the UK had 3.9 million confirmed cases from January 3 until February 9, linked to over 112,000 deaths/

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 14
    sdw2001sdw2001 Posts: 18,019member
    I can't put this any more diplomatically:  I call bullsh*t.  

    There is no way to know that the app "prevented" infections.  What it did was notify people that they may have been "close" to someone who tested positive.  Was that helpful?  Possibly.  How many of the notified users subsequently tested positive?  How does the app define close contact? The other feature relates to checking-in to venues that are ID'd as "high risk."   There are so many factors and questions here.  What if people who install the app are more prone to embrace a false sense of security, thereby engaging in public more?  What if people who test positive are less likely to download the app? Not only can we not say the app "prevented" infections, we can't even prove it's been beneficial.  Common sense would dictate that it is.  But that's not evidence.   

    georgie01muthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 14
    seanjseanj Posts: 318member
    sdw2001 said:
    I can't put this any more diplomatically:  I call bullsh*t.  

    There is no way to know that the app "prevented" infections.  What it did was notify people that they may have been "close" to someone who tested positive.  Was that helpful?  Possibly.  How many of the notified users subsequently tested positive?  How does the app define close contact? The other feature relates to checking-in to venues that are ID'd as "high risk."   There are so many factors and questions here.  What if people who install the app are more prone to embrace a false sense of security, thereby engaging in public more?  What if people who test positive are less likely to download the app? Not only can we not say the app "prevented" infections, we can't even prove it's been beneficial.  Common sense would dictate that it is.  But that's not evidence.   

    Unbelievable.

    Random bloke on internet thinks he knows more than the researchers at Oxford University and the Alan Turing Institute. I know who I’d place my money on being right  :D
    edited February 2021 crowleyjony0
  • Reply 3 of 14
    crowleycrowley Posts: 10,453member
    seanj said:
    sdw2001 said:
    I can't put this any more diplomatically:  I call bullsh*t.  

    There is no way to know that the app "prevented" infections.  What it did was notify people that they may have been "close" to someone who tested positive.  Was that helpful?  Possibly.  How many of the notified users subsequently tested positive?  How does the app define close contact? The other feature relates to checking-in to venues that are ID'd as "high risk."   There are so many factors and questions here.  What if people who install the app are more prone to embrace a false sense of security, thereby engaging in public more?  What if people who test positive are less likely to download the app? Not only can we not say the app "prevented" infections, we can't even prove it's been beneficial.  Common sense would dictate that it is.  But that's not evidence.   

    Unbelievable.

    Random bloke on internet thinks he knows more than the researchers at Oxford University and the Alan Turing Institute. I know who I’d place my money on being right  :D
    Did no-one tell you? Any given poster on the Apple Insider forums is an expert on healthcare management, media distribution strategy, international taxation, industrial supply chain management, corporate finance, and the best way to improve racial and gender equality.  There's a real smart bunch of dweebs lurking in the shadows.
    jony0
  • Reply 4 of 14
    JWSCJWSC Posts: 1,203member
    At our company when an internal improvement project is proposed, in order to get the money to do it we have to justify how much money it will save.  And believe me, many have found creative ways to arrive at savings numbers based upon assumption on top of assumption. It all looks legit.  Spreadsheets, numbers, selected facts and data.  And yet the result is entirely manufactured to arrive at the presumptive conclusion.  Beware reports like this.
    georgie01muthuk_vanalingamGG1watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 14
    seanj said:
    sdw2001 said:
    I can't put this any more diplomatically:  I call bullsh*t.  

    There is no way to know that the app "prevented" infections.  What it did was notify people that they may have been "close" to someone who tested positive.  Was that helpful?  Possibly.  How many of the notified users subsequently tested positive?  How does the app define close contact? The other feature relates to checking-in to venues that are ID'd as "high risk."   There are so many factors and questions here.  What if people who install the app are more prone to embrace a false sense of security, thereby engaging in public more?  What if people who test positive are less likely to download the app? Not only can we not say the app "prevented" infections, we can't even prove it's been beneficial.  Common sense would dictate that it is.  But that's not evidence.   

    Unbelievable.

    Random bloke on internet thinks he knows more than the researchers at Oxford University and the Alan Turing Institute. I know who I’d place my money on being right  :D
    While what you say seems correct in theory, it should be blatantly obvious to anyone who is able to think for themselves that there has been very little public expression of science regarding the coronavirus. Debate is an essential part of science, but despite that there is much conflicting information surrounding the ‘accepted’ perspective (and no concrete information supporting it), nearly all public debate is silenced. Silencing debate is not science.

    The reason most debate is silenced is because managing the population is considered more important than being truthful. So we receive a narrative, not science, which we’re told is science in order to make us obedient. But in reality it’s just the latest ‘thing’ to keep us as pacified as possible.

    As a result there’s plenty of reason to question any study by any group that conveniently aligns with the narrative. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, just a realist who can think for myself.
    edited February 2021 muthuk_vanalingamGG1sdw2001JWSCwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 14
    georgie01 said:
    seanj said:
    sdw2001 said:
    I can't put this any more diplomatically:  I call bullsh*t.  

    There is no way to know that the app "prevented" infections.  What it did was notify people that they may have been "close" to someone who tested positive.  Was that helpful?  Possibly.  How many of the notified users subsequently tested positive?  How does the app define close contact? The other feature relates to checking-in to venues that are ID'd as "high risk."   There are so many factors and questions here.  What if people who install the app are more prone to embrace a false sense of security, thereby engaging in public more?  What if people who test positive are less likely to download the app? Not only can we not say the app "prevented" infections, we can't even prove it's been beneficial.  Common sense would dictate that it is.  But that's not evidence.   

    Unbelievable.

    Random bloke on internet thinks he knows more than the researchers at Oxford University and the Alan Turing Institute. I know who I’d place my money on being right  :D
    While what you say seems correct in theory, it should be blatantly obvious to anyone who is able to think for themselves that there has been very little public expression of science regarding the coronavirus. Debate is an essential part of science, but despite that there is much conflicting information surrounding the ‘accepted’ perspective (and no concrete information supporting it), nearly all public debate is silenced. Silencing debate is not science.

    The reason most debate is silenced is because managing the population is considered more important than being truthful. So we receive a narrative, not science, which we’re told is science in order to make us obedient. But in reality it’s just the latest ‘thing’ to keep us as pacified as possible.

    As a result there’s plenty of reason to question any study by any group that conveniently aligns with the narrative. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, just a realist who can think for myself.
    Well said. I completely agree with you on this. 
  • Reply 7 of 14
    fred1fred1 Posts: 1,116member
    sdw2001 said:
    I can't put this any more diplomatically:  I call bullsh*t.  

    There is no way to know that the app "prevented" infections.  What it did was notify people that they may have been "close" to someone who tested positive.  Was that helpful?  Possibly.  How many of the notified users subsequently tested positive?  How does the app define close contact? The other feature relates to checking-in to venues that are ID'd as "high risk."   There are so many factors and questions here.  What if people who install the app are more prone to embrace a false sense of security, thereby engaging in public more?  What if people who test positive are less likely to download the app? Not only can we not say the app "prevented" infections, we can't even prove it's been beneficial.  Common sense would dictate that it is.  But that's not evidence.   

    I agree with you entirely. How can you possibly give a number which means that “these people were definitely infected and would have infected this number of people if they hadn’t self-isolated.”  
    The good side is that as a precautionary measure they set-isolated, just in case. The bad news is, as you say, the false sense of security that this claim of being able to tell people they’ve been infected creates. 
    People read it as “I haven’t been infected because the app didn’t tell me I have.”
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 14
    crowleycrowley Posts: 10,453member
    fred1 said:
    sdw2001 said:
    I can't put this any more diplomatically:  I call bullsh*t.  

    There is no way to know that the app "prevented" infections.  What it did was notify people that they may have been "close" to someone who tested positive.  Was that helpful?  Possibly.  How many of the notified users subsequently tested positive?  How does the app define close contact? The other feature relates to checking-in to venues that are ID'd as "high risk."   There are so many factors and questions here.  What if people who install the app are more prone to embrace a false sense of security, thereby engaging in public more?  What if people who test positive are less likely to download the app? Not only can we not say the app "prevented" infections, we can't even prove it's been beneficial.  Common sense would dictate that it is.  But that's not evidence.   

    I agree with you entirely. How can you possibly give a number which means that “these people were definitely infected and would have infected this number of people if they hadn’t self-isolated.”  
    The good side is that as a precautionary measure they set-isolated, just in case. The bad news is, as you say, the false sense of security that this claim of being able to tell people they’ve been infected creates. 
    People read it as “I haven’t been infected because the app didn’t tell me I have.”
    But nowhere in the article does it say “these people were definitely infected and would have infected this number of people if they hadn’t self-isolated”, it says that analysis "indicates" a correlation between app usage and lower transmission.  False outrage over non-existent claims.

    Besides which, i
    f you require absolute proof for doing absolutely everything then you'll get nothing done.
    jony0
  • Reply 9 of 14
    sdw2001sdw2001 Posts: 18,019member
    seanj said:
    sdw2001 said:
    I can't put this any more diplomatically:  I call bullsh*t.  

    There is no way to know that the app "prevented" infections.  What it did was notify people that they may have been "close" to someone who tested positive.  Was that helpful?  Possibly.  How many of the notified users subsequently tested positive?  How does the app define close contact? The other feature relates to checking-in to venues that are ID'd as "high risk."   There are so many factors and questions here.  What if people who install the app are more prone to embrace a false sense of security, thereby engaging in public more?  What if people who test positive are less likely to download the app? Not only can we not say the app "prevented" infections, we can't even prove it's been beneficial.  Common sense would dictate that it is.  But that's not evidence.   

    Unbelievable.

    Random bloke on internet thinks he knows more than the researchers at Oxford University and the Alan Turing Institute. I know who I’d place my money on being right  :D
    This random bloke is doing two things: Thinking, and asking questions.  One doesn't have to be a researcher at Oxford or Turing to understand the problems with the government's claims.  I'm not taking issue with the research, I'm taking issue with the claims being made; with the interpretation of that research.   And just to reiterate, I'm not making a claim of my own.  In fact, I noted that common sense dictates that the app was probably helpful.  All I'm saying is the government hasn't come close to supporting the claim that the app "prevented" infections.  If you believe otherwise, the floor is yours.  
    muthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 14
    sdw2001sdw2001 Posts: 18,019member

    georgie01 said:
    seanj said:
    sdw2001 said:
    I can't put this any more diplomatically:  I call bullsh*t.  

    There is no way to know that the app "prevented" infections.  What it did was notify people that they may have been "close" to someone who tested positive.  Was that helpful?  Possibly.  How many of the notified users subsequently tested positive?  How does the app define close contact? The other feature relates to checking-in to venues that are ID'd as "high risk."   There are so many factors and questions here.  What if people who install the app are more prone to embrace a false sense of security, thereby engaging in public more?  What if people who test positive are less likely to download the app? Not only can we not say the app "prevented" infections, we can't even prove it's been beneficial.  Common sense would dictate that it is.  But that's not evidence.   

    Unbelievable.

    Random bloke on internet thinks he knows more than the researchers at Oxford University and the Alan Turing Institute. I know who I’d place my money on being right  :D
    While what you say seems correct in theory, it should be blatantly obvious to anyone who is able to think for themselves that there has been very little public expression of science regarding the coronavirus. Debate is an essential part of science, but despite that there is much conflicting information surrounding the ‘accepted’ perspective (and no concrete information supporting it), nearly all public debate is silenced. Silencing debate is not science.

    The reason most debate is silenced is because managing the population is considered more important than being truthful. So we receive a narrative, not science, which we’re told is science in order to make us obedient. But in reality it’s just the latest ‘thing’ to keep us as pacified as possible.

    As a result there’s plenty of reason to question any study by any group that conveniently aligns with the narrative. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, just a realist who can think for myself.

    This. All of this.  Scientific debate has been squashed on coronavirus.  We have medical professionals being banned for YouTube from discussing possible treatments.  We have those who question lockdowns and masking (based on the data) being silenced and ostracized.  This thing has been political since the start, and I don't just mean domestic U.S. politics.  As you said, it's about control.  The virus is very real and represents a serious threat.  But our response has overall not been based on science.  There are countless examples, starting with the fact that the concepts of "lockdown" and "social distancing" do not appear in medical literature for infectious diseases.  And masking?  There is very little data to show that universal masking has reduced transmission. Here again though...I can't make that statement without it being turned into a giant straw man, or me being labeled some kind of anti-maskhole.  Notice what I did not say:  I didn't claim "masks don't work."  Or that I don't wear one.  The point is we can't even debate and discuss the data, which is a real problem.  
    muthuk_vanalingamJWSCwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 14
    sdw2001sdw2001 Posts: 18,019member
    crowley said:
    fred1 said:
    sdw2001 said:
    I can't put this any more diplomatically:  I call bullsh*t.  

    There is no way to know that the app "prevented" infections.  What it did was notify people that they may have been "close" to someone who tested positive.  Was that helpful?  Possibly.  How many of the notified users subsequently tested positive?  How does the app define close contact? The other feature relates to checking-in to venues that are ID'd as "high risk."   There are so many factors and questions here.  What if people who install the app are more prone to embrace a false sense of security, thereby engaging in public more?  What if people who test positive are less likely to download the app? Not only can we not say the app "prevented" infections, we can't even prove it's been beneficial.  Common sense would dictate that it is.  But that's not evidence.   

    I agree with you entirely. How can you possibly give a number which means that “these people were definitely infected and would have infected this number of people if they hadn’t self-isolated.”  
    The good side is that as a precautionary measure they set-isolated, just in case. The bad news is, as you say, the false sense of security that this claim of being able to tell people they’ve been infected creates. 
    People read it as “I haven’t been infected because the app didn’t tell me I have.”
    But nowhere in the article does it say “these people were definitely infected and would have infected this number of people if they hadn’t self-isolated”, it says that analysis "indicates" a correlation between app usage and lower transmission.  False outrage over non-existent claims.

    Besides which, if you require absolute proof for doing absolutely everything then you'll get nothing done.
    True, but the press release is quite strong in its overall message:  https://www.gov.uk/government/news/nhs-covid-19-app-alerts-17-million-contacts-to-stop-spread-of-covid-19 ;

    Here are few quotes:  

    "The NHS COVID-19 app has been breaking chains of transmission to protect users and their communities since its launch in September."

    "The more people who download the app the better it works. Research conducted by scientists at The Alan Turing Institute and Oxford University shows for every 1% increase in app users, the number of coronavirus cases in the population can be reduced by 2.3%."  

    "Using the NHS COVID-19 app is the fastest way to know when you have been at risk of catching the virus and our analysis shows when more people download the app they can have a disproportionately positive impact on driving down case numbers in the community."


    1.  Where is the evidence that it has been "breaking chains of transmission?"  Certainly we hope it has.  It seems plausible.  But consider the other variables and questions that I and others have raised.  Are people who download the app more likely to engage in public? Do they have a false sense of security?  How many tested positive after receiving a notice? Are they more or less likely to test if they've been notified? Are they more or less likely to take other precautions if they download the app?  Putting a number on possible "prevented infections" is utterly unsupported, reckless and borderline propaganda.  

    2.  Oh boy.  Let's start with the claim.  Reduced by 2.3%....from what?  From what it would have been without the app?  This is a real leap to say the least.  It requires multiple assumptions, starting with "the app works to reduce transmission as claimed."  And what does "can be" mean?  

    3.  This is my favorite, because it really doesn't say or mean anything.  Yes, you can get a notification that you've been near someone who declares they are positive.  But that doesn't necessary mean you were at risk.  Did someone breathe on you? Were you in close contact for more than 15 minutes? Was everyone masked properly?  Were you wearing an N95 or better mask?  The app tells you only that you were near (whatever that means) someone who says they tested positive.  Or that you were at a "high risk" venue.  And the second claim...what is a "disproportionately positive impact" mean?  

    Just like with shutdowns and universal masking, we are being told that these measures work, and then told the virus is still out of control.  See, it would be so much worse without these actions!  Except of course, the data doesn't support that claim either.  And I think you know that.   
    edited February 2021 muthuk_vanalingamJWSC
  • Reply 12 of 14
    fred1fred1 Posts: 1,116member
    crowley said:
    fred1 said:
    sdw2001 said:
    I can't put this any more diplomatically:  I call bullsh*t.  

    There is no way to know that the app "prevented" infections.  What it did was notify people that they may have been "close" to someone who tested positive.  Was that helpful?  Possibly.  How many of the notified users subsequently tested positive?  How does the app define close contact? The other feature relates to checking-in to venues that are ID'd as "high risk."   There are so many factors and questions here.  What if people who install the app are more prone to embrace a false sense of security, thereby engaging in public more?  What if people who test positive are less likely to download the app? Not only can we not say the app "prevented" infections, we can't even prove it's been beneficial.  Common sense would dictate that it is.  But that's not evidence.   

    I agree with you entirely. How can you possibly give a number which means that “these people were definitely infected and would have infected this number of people if they hadn’t self-isolated.”  
    The good side is that as a precautionary measure they set-isolated, just in case. The bad news is, as you say, the false sense of security that this claim of being able to tell people they’ve been infected creates. 
    People read it as “I haven’t been infected because the app didn’t tell me I have.”
    But nowhere in the article does it say “these people were definitely infected and would have infected this number of people if they hadn’t self-isolated”, it says that analysis "indicates" a correlation between app usage and lower transmission.  False outrage over non-existent claims.

    Besides which, if you require absolute proof for doing absolutely everything then you'll get nothing done.
    Did you not read the headline? It clearly states that this app prevented 600,000 infections.  How can they possibly state a precise number? I don’t need “absolute proof”, I just don’t want them to state speculated number as facts. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 14
    normmnormm Posts: 653member
    sdw2001 said:

    georgie01 said:
    seanj said:
    sdw2001 said:
    I can't put this any more diplomatically:  I call bullsh*t.  

    There is no way to know that the app "prevented" infections.  What it did was notify people that they may have been "close" to someone who tested positive.  Was that helpful?  Possibly.  How many of the notified users subsequently tested positive?  How does the app define close contact? The other feature relates to checking-in to venues that are ID'd as "high risk."   There are so many factors and questions here.  What if people who install the app are more prone to embrace a false sense of security, thereby engaging in public more?  What if people who test positive are less likely to download the app? Not only can we not say the app "prevented" infections, we can't even prove it's been beneficial.  Common sense would dictate that it is.  But that's not evidence.   

    Unbelievable.

    Random bloke on internet thinks he knows more than the researchers at Oxford University and the Alan Turing Institute. I know who I’d place my money on being right  :D
    While what you say seems correct in theory, it should be blatantly obvious to anyone who is able to think for themselves that there has been very little public expression of science regarding the coronavirus. Debate is an essential part of science, but despite that there is much conflicting information surrounding the ‘accepted’ perspective (and no concrete information supporting it), nearly all public debate is silenced. Silencing debate is not science.

    The reason most debate is silenced is because managing the population is considered more important than being truthful. So we receive a narrative, not science, which we’re told is science in order to make us obedient. But in reality it’s just the latest ‘thing’ to keep us as pacified as possible.

    As a result there’s plenty of reason to question any study by any group that conveniently aligns with the narrative. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, just a realist who can think for myself.

    This. All of this.  Scientific debate has been squashed on coronavirus.  We have medical professionals being banned for YouTube from discussing possible treatments.  We have those who question lockdowns and masking (based on the data) being silenced and ostracized.  This thing has been political since the start, and I don't just mean domestic U.S. politics.  As you said, it's about control.  The virus is very real and represents a serious threat.  But our response has overall not been based on science.  There are countless examples, starting with the fact that the concepts of "lockdown" and "social distancing" do not appear in medical literature for infectious diseases.  And masking?  There is very little data to show that universal masking has reduced transmission. Here again though...I can't make that statement without it being turned into a giant straw man, or me being labeled some kind of anti-maskhole.  Notice what I did not say:  I didn't claim "masks don't work."  Or that I don't wear one.  The point is we can't even debate and discuss the data, which is a real problem.  
    We don't hear anything about the Apple/Google exposure tracking app being used in the US.  That's presumably because the infection rate in this country is still through the roof and beyond what such an app can help with.  In some countries they've had almost zero deaths, using brief lockdowns and rigorous contact tracing, but that's beyond us here.  Politicization of public health measures that have been successful elsewhere has given us the worst death rate from covid of any developed nation, and 1/5 of all covid deaths in the world.

    We've seen over and over again that we cannot protect the vulnerable if there is a high prevalence of covid.  Our choices are to either keep the virus somewhat under control until we are mostly vaccinated, or to ignore the virus and let another three million Americans die to get to herd immunity.
    jony0
  • Reply 14 of 14
    crowleycrowley Posts: 10,453member
    fred1 said:
    crowley said:
    fred1 said:
    sdw2001 said:
    I can't put this any more diplomatically:  I call bullsh*t.  

    There is no way to know that the app "prevented" infections.  What it did was notify people that they may have been "close" to someone who tested positive.  Was that helpful?  Possibly.  How many of the notified users subsequently tested positive?  How does the app define close contact? The other feature relates to checking-in to venues that are ID'd as "high risk."   There are so many factors and questions here.  What if people who install the app are more prone to embrace a false sense of security, thereby engaging in public more?  What if people who test positive are less likely to download the app? Not only can we not say the app "prevented" infections, we can't even prove it's been beneficial.  Common sense would dictate that it is.  But that's not evidence.   

    I agree with you entirely. How can you possibly give a number which means that “these people were definitely infected and would have infected this number of people if they hadn’t self-isolated.”  
    The good side is that as a precautionary measure they set-isolated, just in case. The bad news is, as you say, the false sense of security that this claim of being able to tell people they’ve been infected creates. 
    People read it as “I haven’t been infected because the app didn’t tell me I have.”
    But nowhere in the article does it say “these people were definitely infected and would have infected this number of people if they hadn’t self-isolated”, it says that analysis "indicates" a correlation between app usage and lower transmission.  False outrage over non-existent claims.

    Besides which, if you require absolute proof for doing absolutely everything then you'll get nothing done.
    Did you not read the headline? It clearly states that this app prevented 600,000 infections.  How can they possibly state a precise number? I don’t need “absolute proof”, I just don’t want them to state speculated number as facts. 
    The linked gov.uk does not have the clickbait headline, and is clearer about 600,000 being an approximate based on analysis.  It does not claim that it's a fact, just an estimate based on available information.  Also, 600,000 is not a precise number.
    jony0
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