Epidemiological changes on the Isle of Wight after the launch of the NHS Test and Trace programme: a preliminary analysis.
Kendall M., Milsom L., Abeler-Dörner L., Wymant C., Ferretti L., Briers M., Holmes C., Bonsall D., Abeler J., Fraser C.
Background: In May 2020, the UK National Health Service (NHS) Test and Trace programme was launched in England in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The programme was first rolled out on the Isle of Wight and included version 1 of the NHS contact tracing app. The aim of the study was to make a preliminary assessment of the epidemiological impact of the Test and Trace programme using publicly available data. Methods: We used COVID-19 daily case data from Public Health England to infer incidence of new infections and estimate the reproduction number (R) for each of the 150 Upper-Tier Local Authorities (UTLAs) in England and nationally, before and after the launch of the Test and Trace programme on the Isle of Wight. We used Bayesian and maximum-likelihood methods to estimate R and compared the Isle of Wight with other UTLAs using a synthetic control method. Findings: We observed significant decreases in incidence and R on the Isle of Wight immediately after the launch of the Test and Trace programme. The Isle of Wight had a marked reduction in R, from 1·3 before the Test and Trace programme to 0·5 after by one of our measures, and went from having the third highest R before the Test and Trace programme, to the twelfth lowest afterwards compared with other UTLAs. Interpretation: Our results show that the epidemic on the Isle of Wight was controlled quickly and effectively after the launch of Test and Trace. Our findings highlight the need for further research to determine the causes of the reduction in the spread of the disease, as these could be translated into local and national non-pharmaceutical intervention strategies in the period before a treatment or vaccination for COVID-19 becomes available. Funding: Li Ka Shing Foundation and UK Economic and Social Research Council.