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Adherence to the test, trace and isolate system in the UK: results from a series of 37 nationally representative surveys
31 Mar 2021
BMJ 2021;372:n608 DoI: 10.1136/bmj.n608
Smith LE, Potts HWW, Amlôt R, Fear NT, Michie S, Rubin GJ
Abstract Objective To investigate rates of adherence to the UK’s test, trace, and isolate system over the initial 11 months of the covid-19 pandemic. Design Series of cross sectional online surveys. Setting 37 nationally representative surveys in the UK, 2 March 2020 to 27 January 2021. Participants 74 697 responses from 53 880 people living in the UK, aged 16 years or older (37 survey waves, about 2000 participants in each wave). Main outcome measures Identification of the main symptoms of covid-19 (cough, high temperature or fever, and loss of sense of smell or taste), self-reported adherence to self-isolation if symptoms were present and intention to self-isolate if symptoms were to develop, requesting a test for covid-19 if symptoms were present and intention to request a test if symptoms were to develop, and intention to share details of close contacts. Results Only 51.5% of participants (95% confidence interval 51.0% to 51.9%, n=26 030/50 570) identified the main symptoms of covid-19; the corresponding values in the most recent wave of data collection (25-27 January 2021) were 50.8% (48.6% to 53.0%, n=1019/2007). Across all waves, duration adjusted adherence to full self-isolation was 42.5% (95% confidence interval 39.7% to 45.2%, n=515/1213); in the most recent wave of data collection (25-27 January 2021), it was 51.8% (40.8% to 62.8%, n=43/83). Across all waves, requesting a test for covid-19 was 18.0% (95% confidence interval 16.6% to 19.3%, n=552/3068), increasing to 22.2% (14.6% to 29.9%, n=26/117) from 25 to 27 January. Across all waves, intention to share details of close contacts was 79.1% (95% confidence interval 78.8% to 79.5%, n=36 145/45 680), increasing to 81.9% (80.1% to 83.6%, n=1547/1890) from 25 to 27 January. Non-adherence was associated with being male, younger age, having a dependent child in the household, lower socioeconomic grade, greater financial hardship during the pandemic, and working in a key sector. Conclusions Levels of adherence to test, trace, and isolate are low, although some improvement has occurred over time. Practical support and financial reimbursement are likely to improve adherence. Targeting messaging and policies to men, younger age groups, and key workers might also be necessary.