Effect of manual and digital contact tracing on COVID-19 outbreaks: a study on empirical contact data

Published on Jul 25, 2020in medRxiv
· DOI :10.1101/2020.07.24.20159947
Alain Barrat74
Estimated H-index: 74
(AMU: Aix-Marseille University),
Ciro Cattuto49
Estimated H-index: 49
(UNITO: University of Turin)
+ 2 AuthorsJari Saramäki47
Estimated H-index: 47
(Aalto University)
Sources
Abstract
In the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, lockdowns have succeeded in limiting contagions in many countries, at however heavy societal costs: more targeted non-pharmaceutical interventions are desirable to contain or mitigate potential resurgences. Contact tracing, by identifying and quarantining people who have been in prolonged contact with an infectious individual, has the potential to stop the spread where and when it occurs, with thus limited impact. The limitations of manual contact tracing (MCT), due to delays and imperfect recall of contacts, might be compensated by digital contact tracing (DCT) based on smartphone apps, whose impact however depends on the app adoption. To assess the efficiency of such interventions in realistic settings, we use here datasets describing contacts between individuals in several contexts, with high spatial and temporal resolution, to feed numerical simulations of a compartmental model for COVID-19. We find that the obtained reduction of epidemic size has a robust behavior: this benefit is linear in the fraction of contacts recalled during MCT, and quadratic in the app adoption, with no threshold effect. The combination of tracing strategies can yield important benefits, and the cost (number of quarantines) vs. benefit curve has a typical parabolic shape, independent on the type of tracing, with a high benefit and low cost if app adoption and MCT efficiency are high enough. Our numerical results are qualitatively confirmed by analytical results on simplified models. These results may inform the inclusion of MCT and DCT within COVID-19 response plans.
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