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Public Health Res Pract.2020 Jun;30(2). 3022009. doi: 10.17061/phrp3022009.Epub 2020-06-30.


Stemming the flow: how much can the Australian smartphone app help to control COVID-19?

  • Danielle J Currie
  • Cindy Q Peng
  • David M Lyle
  • Brydie A Jameson
  • Michael S Frommer
PMID: 32601652 DOI: 10.17061/phrp3022009.




OBJECTIVES: Our objective is to assess the potential contribution of the Australian Government's mobile smartphone tracing app (COVIDSafe) to the sustained control of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).



STUDY TYPE: Development and analysis of a system dynamics model.



METHODS: To define the pandemic context and specify model-building parameters, we searched for literature on COVID-19, its epidemiology in Australia, case finding processes, and factors that might affect community acceptance of the COVIDSafe smartphone app for contact tracing. We then developed a system dynamics model of COVID-19 based on a modified susceptible-exposed-infected-recovered compartmental model structure, using initial pandemic data and published information on virus behaviour to determine parameter values. We applied the model to examine factors influencing the projected trends: the extent of viral testing, community participation in social distancing, and the level of uptake of the COVIDSafe app.



RESULTS: Modelling suggests that a second COVID-19 wave will occur if social distancing declines (i.e. if the average number of contacts made by each individual each day increases) and the rate of testing declines. The timing and size of the second wave will depend on the rate of decrease in social distancing and the decline in testing rates. At the app uptake level of approximately 27% (current at 20 May 2020), with a monthly 50% reduction in social distancing (i.e. the average number of contacts per day doubling every 30 days until they reach pre-social distancing rates) and a 5% decline in testing, the app would reduce the projected total number of new cases during April-December 2020 by one-quarter. If uptake reaches the possible maximum of 61%, the reduction could be more than half.



CONCLUSIONS: Maintenance of a large-scale testing regimen for COVID-19 and widespread community practice of social distancing are vital. The COVIDSafe smartphone app has the potential to be an important adjunct to testing and social distancing. Depending on the level of community uptake of the app, it could have a significant mitigating effect on a second wave of COVID-19 in Australia.