New Covid-19 cases on Isle of Wight ‘declined rapidly’ after test and trace launch

New cases declined after the launch of the track and trace app in the Isle of Wight.
New infections on the Isle of Wight decreased after the launch of the NHS-led contact tracing app. Credit: PA

The number of Coronavirus infections on the Isle of Wight "decreased really rapidly" after the launch of the track and trace app, according to data.

Researchers at Oxford University’s Nuffield Department of Medicine found that the R value, the number of people that a single infected person will go on to infect, dropped on the island more rapidly than 150 other councils after the launch of the scheme.

Senior Researcher at the Nuffield Department of Medicine, Dr Michelle Kendall, said: “We found that the incidence – the number of new infections in the Isle of Wight began high and decreased really rapidly… after the test and trace launch.”

The government's pilot test, trace and isolate programme (TTI) began trials on the island on May 5.

But the NHS-led contact tracing app was scrapped due to problems with getting it to work on iPhones.

The NHS is now building a new version based on a model developed by Apple and Google, which is not expected to be ready before the winter.

Over the length of the trial, the R value in the Isle of Wight dipped from 1 to around 0.25. Credit: PA

Before the system was launched, the Isle of Wight had one of the highest rates of infection in the world, the researchers said.

But over the length of the trial, the R value dipped from 1 in early May to around 0.25 by May 23.

This meant the island went from having one of the highest rates of infection (147th out of the 150 council areas) to one of the lowest (10th out of 150), they said.

Dr Kendall said she and her team could not rule out other causes that could have led to the drop in infection rates but added: “The timing really points to the test and tracelaunch having a positive effect.”

The scientists believe their findings could help experts and health officials stay on top of local outbreaks by helping to spot trends in localised incidence and R rates.

The Isle of Wight’s TTI programme was led by the NHS app, which used Bluetooth connections on smartphones to record when people came close enough to be at the risk ofbecoming infected.

The researchers found that between May 6 and May 26, 1,524 people reported their symptoms via the app, which resulted in 1,188 receiving notifications of possible exposure to coronavirus.

The scheme also saw 160 people test positive and 163 people being contacted by human contact tracers and told to self-isolate, during that period.

Senior researcher and one of the authors of the report, Dr David Bonsall said he was disappointed that a contact tracing app is yet to be released in the UK.

He added: “There have been a number of extraneous delays to testing in the UK that are now resolved and so the app that is being developed can integrate better – better than itwas possible to do in the trial that was launched in the Isle of Wight.