Estimating the impact of test–trace–isolate–quarantine systems on SARS-CoV-2 transmission in Australia

Freya M. Shearer, James M. McCaw, Gerard E. Ryan, Tianxiao Hao, Nicholas J. Tierney, Michael J. Lydeamore, Logan Wu, Kate Ward, Sally Ellis, James Wood, Jodie McVernon, Nick Golding

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Background: Australian states and territories used test–trace–isolate–quarantine (TTIQ) systems extensively in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020-2021. We report on an analysis of Australian case data to estimate the impact of test–trace–isolate–quarantine systems on SARS-CoV-2 transmission. Methods: Our analysis uses a novel mathematical modelling framework and detailed surveillance data on COVID-19 cases including dates of infection and dates of isolation. First, we directly translate an empirical distribution of times from infection to isolation into reductions in potential for onward transmission during periods of relatively low caseloads (tens to hundreds of reported cases per day). We then apply a simulation approach, validated against case data, to assess the impact of case-initiated contact tracing on transmission during a period of relatively higher caseloads and system stress (up to thousands of cases per day). Results: We estimate that under relatively low caseloads in the state of New South Wales (tens of cases per day), TTIQ contributed to a 54% reduction in transmission. Under higher caseloads in the state of Victoria (hundreds of cases per day), TTIQ contributed to a 42% reduction in transmission. Our results also suggest that case-initiated contact tracing can support timely quarantine in times of system stress (thousands of cases per day). Conclusion: Contact tracing systems for COVID-19 in Australia were highly effective and adaptable in supporting the national suppression strategy from 2020–21, prior to the emergence of the Omicron variant in November 2021. TTIQ systems were critical to the maintenance of the strong suppression strategy and were more effective when caseloads were (relatively) low.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100764
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2024


  • Contact tracing
  • COVID-19
  • Modelling
  • Surveillance data

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