Anatomy of digital contact tracing: Role of age, transmission setting, adoption, and case detection

Moreno López, Jesús A.; Arregui García, Beatriz; Bentkowski, Piotr; Bioglio, Livio; Pinotti, Francesco; Boëlle, Pierre-Yves; Barrat, Alain; Colizza, Vittoria; Poletto, Chiara
Science Advances , (2021)

The efficacy of digital contact tracing against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) epidemic is debated: Smartphone penetration is limited in many countries, with low coverage among the elderly, the most vulnerable to COVID-19. We developed an agent-based model to precise the impact of digital contact tracing and household isolation on COVID-19 transmission. The model, calibrated on French population, integrates demographic, contact and epidemiological information to describe exposure and transmission of COVID-19. We explored realistic levels of case detection, app adoption, population immunity, and transmissibility. Assuming a reproductive ratio R = 2.6 and 50% detection of clinical cases, a ~20% app adoption reduces peak incidence by ~35%. With R = 1.7, >30% app adoption lowers the epidemic to manageable levels. Higher coverage among adults, playing a central role in COVID-19 transmission, yields an indirect benefit for the elderly. These results may inform the inclusion of digital contact tracing within a COVID-19 response plan.

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