Quarantine rules spoil coronavirus app research, information is now incomplete

A man busy with his smartphone
A man busy with his smartphone

Initial research into the effectiveness of the Dutch coronavirus app, which warns people if they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus, has flopped, news website Nu.nl said on Friday.

The health ministry has now admitted that data relating to the use of the app during testing, which could have provided useful information, was incomplete and partly unreliable, Nu.nl said.

The app, which was launched nationwide six days ago, began trials in five regional health board areas in mid August. As well as warning people who have been in close contact with carriers to go into quarantine, the app’s designers hope to find out if its use does lead to patients being identified before they have developed symptoms.

Information

But since September 12, an app warning has not been enough to qualify for a coronavirus test, and that means not enough information has been gathered to do proper research, Ron Roozendaal, who is in charge of the CoronaMelder at the ministry, said.

‘We also had relatively few requests [for tests] within the trial area and we could not confirm if people who said they had been notified actually had. And that makes the research results vulnerable,’

Researchers are now focusing on finding out if the app, which has been downloaded 2.65 million times so far, actually helps slow down the spread of the disease and if it has a negative impact on behaviour, Roozendaal told Nu.nl.

Self employed

The app is creating problems for employers and the self employed, because of the requirement that people who are alerted about a contact go into quarantine for 10 days.

Because users who get an alert are not allowed to have a coronavirus test unless they actually develop symptoms, they have to stay home for a 10 day period, even if it turns out to be unnecessary.

It is a good tool, but the recommendation should be to get a test [if you get a warning],’ employers spokesman Edwin van Scherrenburg told broadcaster NOS. ‘And test capacity has to be increased, results should be made available faster and we should be using the fast tests as well.’

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