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First corona app effectiveness test failed: collected data unusable

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The first investigation into the effectiveness of CoronaMelder has failed. Although figures have been collected that should have said something about the added value of the app, the data is incomplete and partly unreliable, the Ministry of Health acknowledges to Press.

‘Part of research data is very vulnerable’

The government’s corona app gives a warning if you have been close to someone who later turns out to have the corona virus. The app has been available nationwide for a week now, but has been tested in the eastern Netherlands since 17 August.

Five GGDs in Drenthe, Overijssel and Gelderland then went on a test run to gain experience. Anyone who received a warning from the app could also have themselves tested at the local GGD, even if they had no complaints (yet).

In this way it can be investigated whether corona patients could already be found before they show symptoms. Thanks to the app, it is possible to find out how many people are carrying the virus and can also infect others, without them realizing it.

Four weeks later, however, due to the pressure on the testing capacity, the Ministry of Health decided to only have people tested again if they have complaints. From September 12, just a warning from the corona app was no longer enough to request a test.

“That means that the period was too short to do enough research”, Ron Roozendaal, who is at the helm of the CoronaMelder project at the ministry, told Press. In addition, the ministry did not register, for example, whether someone who applied for a test without symptoms might develop complaints later.

“We also had relatively few requests within the test area (the five GGD regions, ed.) And we could not determine whether someone who said they had received a notification had actually received it. That makes some of the research data very vulnerable. “

“My qualification would not be that the investigation has failed”, Roozendaal says. “The bottom line is that the data is not good enough. That’s life, unfortunately.”

The study was the first opportunity to find out in practice whether the app actually finds corona patients before they show symptoms. The test cannot be carried out just like that, because people can currently only have themselves tested if they already have complaints.

The Ministry of Health has investigated the impact of the nationwide introduction of CoronaMelder. For example, researchers are looking at how the app contributes to the fight against the corona virus, but also what possible negative effects the app has on people’s behavior.

Finding infected people before or without having complaints is not the only potential benefit of the CoronaMelder. For example, people who already have complaints can be persuaded by a warning to request a test.

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