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01 June 2021

DHSC awards COVID-19 app £3.1 million grant

The Department of Health has awarded the ZOE COVID Symptom Study app a 3.1million grant to continue essential work tracking and researching the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK. Instalments of the grant will be issued from 1 st April 2021 for up to 1 year.

COVID Symptom tracker app logo

The app was launched by ZOE on 24th March 2020 with clinical input from researchers at King’s College London, to rapidly assist health planners during the pandemic.

The funding will allow the unique study, which relies on regular contributions from around 1 million committed members of the public, to track COVID symptoms, vaccine side effects and much more.

The study has since gained over 4.5 million contributors across the UK, US and Sweden, whose data led to scores of scientific discoveries, including the now “core” symptom of loss of taste and smell (anosmia). Other symptoms identified through the study include skin rashes and sudden confusion (delirium) in the elderly, leading to a change in medical guidelines.

The ZOE COVID Study has analysed:

● 4,110,693 contributors across the UK

● 321,010,169 daily health reports logged

● 3,409,360 COVID-19 tests booked through the app

● 1,112,558 logged vaccines

The ZOE COVID Study is one of the DHSC’s COVID-19 surveillance and immunity studies, the others being The Office of National Statistics and Imperial College’s REACT-1 and REACT-2, used by the DHSC to inform and plan government response to the rapidly changing pandemic. The funding extension means the ZOE COVID Study remains free and open to anyone in the UK.

Health Minister Lord Bethell said: “With symptom data from over one million individuals using the app across the UK, the ZOE COVID Study is a valuable tool in helping us understand the effects of the virus. Surveillance studies provide vital data and insight to help us build a picture of COVID-19 across the country and inform our response to the pandemic, and I thank everyone who has volunteered to take part and all research staff helping expand our knowledge.”

Continued funding not only shows how effective ZOE’s community-based, citizen science approach has been in monitoring COVID-19, but the potential our approach holds for the future. The COVID pandemic is just the tip of the iceberg, and we want to use this opportunity to carry on monitoring the population post-vaccination and after infection, including those with lingering long COVID symptoms. This will allow us to understand the lasting impact of the pandemic, respond early to new threats, and make an impact across all sorts of health concerns beyond COVID-19.

Professor Tim Spector, from the School of Life Course Sciences and lead scientist on the app

Prof Richard Trembath, Executive Director, King’s Health Partners, said: “I am immensely proud of the role King’s Health Partners have played in the success of the ZOE COVID Study. Continued funding will allow our teams to continue their critical work in understanding the lasting impact of the pandemic and developing the study into an exciting tool for wider health studies for the public good. The ZOE COVID Study has potentially changed the way we approach public health research through citizen science and digital technology.”

In this story

Tim Spector

Professor of Genetic Epidemiology

Richard Trembath

Senior Vice President (Health & Life Sciences) and Executive Director of King’s Health Partners