Key info

16 April 2020


Zoom call with members of the public: intro slides, snap polls & breakout room discussions


Philippa Pristerà, Helen Ward

Breakout room hosts / facilitators (A-Z):
Helen Ward, Katharine Collet, Maria Piggin, Philippa Pristerà / Meerat Kaur,  Rozlyn Redd, Vasiliki Papageorgiou

Insight report authors:

Katharine Collet, Philippa Pristerà, Maria Piggin

Download the full Digital Contact Tracing Insight Report [pdf]Back to our COVID-19 Community Involvement activity


On Thursday 16 April 2020, PERC held our first community involvement zoom call. It ran from 4:30–6:00pm and was attended by 24 members of the public from across the UK.

The agenda for the call included:

  1. An introduction to PERC and our work;
  2. An overview of COVID-19 research at Imperial College London;
  3. Recap of PERC’s community involvement initiative;
  4. Pre-Discussion Polls;
  5. Breakout room discussions (4 rooms; 6-8 people per room) on two discussion topics: (i) Digital Contact Tracing (e.g. via mobile phone apps); and (ii) How the COVID-19 outbreak is being communicated to the public;
  6. Next Steps and Questions.

This page summarises the conversations captured around Contact Tracing Apps only. A summary of the second topic ‘How the COVID-19 outbreak is being communicated to the public' is available here.

Key Insights

There was overall agreement that a digital contact tracing app was necessary. Those that were considered high-risk individuals felt that without this app, they wouldn’t be “released [from isolation] until 2021”. However, respondents also felt they would need clear and concise answers to key questions and concerns in order to use and trust a contact tracing app. These fell across a number of key themes that are expanded on in the next section but the key messages that came from through during the conversations are summarised here for ease.

  • Overall support to download/use the app and follow guidance, under the right circumstances.
    ➢ 50% of attendees said they would download and use the app, 42% might use the app, and 8% did not have or regularly use a smart phone
    ➢ Most reported being either ‘likely’ or ‘very likely’ to self-isolate in response to an alert that a recent contact had self-reported symptoms (83%; n=20); or tested positive for COVID-19 (100%; n=24)
    ➢ Notably, respondents showed a drastic increase in being ‘very likely’ to self-isolate if someone they had been in contact with had tested positive, as opposed to self-reported symptoms (46%; n=11 vs. 83%; n=20)

  • Strong support for users to be able to request follow-up with a healthcare professional (HCP) after receiving an alert from the app.
    ➢ Many also felt it would be important that those who self-reported symptoms via the app were followed up by an HCP, and ideally tested, so those who received an alert could come out of isolation if the person’s test was negative or request their own test if the person tested positive.

  • Need for clarity around practical and privacy questions, including:
    ➢ How the app works (e.g. What would count as “being in contact” with someone… distance? duration? How will false positives be avoided? Is it safe to keep Bluetooth on all the time? etc);
    ➢ Who was involved in its development and how the data will be used (e.g. How will the data be collected and stored, and for how long? Will it truly be anonymous?
    ➢ What the alerts mean and how they should respond;
    ➢ Why a contact tracing app is needed and how it will be used during the outbreak.

  • Areas flagged for further work included:
    ➢ How the app will be communicated and launched to the public; and
    ➢ How to support contact tracing among populations who do not have access to data or smart phones.

Next steps

This report has been shared directly with researchers who are involved in the development of digital contact tracing apps and those who will be loking at the adoptiong of these apps as part of planning the outbreak response.

The insights shared from this activity highlight just some of the concerns and questions the public have around contact tracing apps. Ongoing engagement and involvement with the public to overcome these concerns is essential to improve the understanding, acceptance, adoption and appropriate use of these apps in the UK. More should now be done to expand the diversity of views that are captured and fed into ongoing development and use. This is one area that PERC are currently exploring.