EU, WHO launch new tool for pandemic contact tracing

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the World Health Organization's European regional office have developed a tool to evaluate the public health effectiveness of contact tracing solutions, according to a statement on Monday.

The tool, described as an indicator framework, will provide countries with a standardized approach for evaluating their use of digital proximity tracing solutions. It will also assess the extent to which these solutions have aided national contact tracing strategies for COVID-19, an ECDC statement noted.

Countries have employed innovative technologies throughout the pandemic to support the implementation of public health and social measures. Digital proximity tracing, by using smartphones or other devices to capture anonymized interactions between individuals and which would then issue alerts, emerged as a new means of support for contact tracing programs.

"This new indicator framework offers countries a standardized approach to gather the evidence and assess the contribution that digital proximity tracing technology has made to large-scale contact tracing efforts for COVID-19. We anticipate that it will become an invaluable tool," said Natasha Azzopardi-Muscat, director of the Division of Country Health Policies and Systems at WHO/Europe.

Vicky Lefevre, head of the ECDC Public Health Functions Unit, added that digital proximity tracing technology is a new tool for a new challenge, the COVID-19. It is vital to evaluate its public health effectiveness in order to understand how best to use this technology right now as well as for future pandemics.