The track and trace system set up at the start of the coronavirus pandemic had little impact on the virus’s progression, according to new research published by the Volkskrant on Thursday.
Thousands of people were involved in the €23 million project to warn potential contacts that they may have been exposed to the virus.
However, the researchers found, people mainly tested for the virus because they had symptoms or because they had been in contact with someone who had coronavirus. The track and trace network, and the warning app, therefore served little purpose.
Between just 2% and 5% of people visiting an Amsterdam testing location between the end of 2020 and early 2021 did so because they had been alerted by someone from the contact network. And just 1.5% had been warned about potential contacts via the CoronaMelder app.
Research leader Janneke van de Wijgert (UMC Utrecht) told the Volkskrant she was surprised so few people who had been warned by the regional health board actually had a test.
‘So many people were taken on by the health boards that they had the capacity to phone a very large number of contacts and to warn them,’ she said.
Nevertheless, given that the virus was new, it made total sense to carry out a track and trace programme because ‘you need to do all you can to stop it’, she said.
In addition tracing close contacts is essential in the case of serious infectious diseases that spread more slowly, such as tuberculosis or HIV, Van de Wijgert said. ‘But once you lose control, it may be of limited use. People found out more quickly from their housemates, friends or colleagues if someone had tested positive.’
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