Covid tracker app used by few to identify close contacts - IMJ

Just under 21,000 of 503,421 cases up to November resulted in details being uploaded

Only 4 per cent of people who tested positive for Covid-19 uploaded their close contact details to the Covid tracker app for tracing purposes, according to data published in the Irish Medical Journal.

Up to late November last, only 20,946 had used the Government app for the purpose for which it was intended by uploading close contacts. There were 503,421 cases over the period.

Assuming each case had four contacts, this would indicate over 2,013,684 people needed to be contact traced, the article states.

However, under 35,000 people were actually contact traced, according to data obtained from the app.

Under 80,000 people check in daily to the app, less than 5 per cent of the 1.7 million “active users” reported to be using it. The HSE was unable to say how many people are using the app effectively for tracing purposes by having both Bluetooth and location settings correctly enabled.

The app can be used to store a person’s digital Covid-19 cert, prompting the author of the editorial article to ask: “Is it now the case that this widely lauded contact tracing app has merely become a vaccine passport?”

“Government press releases claiming this app is an ‘unmitigated success’ undermine public trust at a truly crucial time for our society,” the editorial states.

“If we want the general public to meaningfully engage with digital public health tools moving forward, the HSE needs to illustrate exactly how this app is contributing to the fight against Covid-19 in this country.”

The HSE had spent more €1.2 million on the app by last July, a year after it was set up.

Meanwhile, Covid-19 infection may have “triggered or unmasked” late onset rheumatoid arthritis in a 63-year-old male patient, according to a study published in the same IMJ edition.

However, the diagnosis in the patient, who was in the Mater hospital in Dublin two months post-infection, may have been “serendipitous” as “assigning causation is difficult”, treating doctors said.