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Do members of the public think they should use lateral flow tests or PCR tests when they have COVID-19-like symptoms? The COVID-19 Rapid Survey of Adherence to Interventions and Responses [CORSAIR] study

Publication date: 

28 Jul 2021


Public Health 2021;198:260-262. DoI: 10.1016/j.puhe.2021.07.023


Smith LE, Potts HWW, Amlot R, Fear NT, Michie S, Rubin GJ

Publication type: 



Abstract Objectives This study aimed to investigate public use of lateral flow tests (LFT) and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests when experiencing key COVID-19 symptoms. Study design In this study, data from two waves of a cross-sectional nationally representative online survey (data collected 1 and 2 June, and 14 and 15 June 2021; n = 3665 adults aged ≥18 years living in England or Scotland) were used. Methods We report data investigating which type of test, if any, the public think Government guidance asks people to use if they have COVID-19 symptoms. In people with key COVID-19 symptoms (high temperature / fever; new, continuous cough; loss of sense of smell; loss of taste), we also describe the uptake of testing, if any. Results Ten percent of respondents thought Government guidance stated that they should take an LFT if symptomatic, whereas 18% of people thought that they should take a PCR test; 60% of people thought they should take both types of test (12% did not select either option). In people who were symptomatic, 32% reported taking a test to confirm whether they had COVID-19. Of these, 53% reported taking a PCR test and 44% reported taking an LFT. Conclusions Despite Government guidance stating that anyone with key COVID-19 symptoms should complete a PCR test, a significant percentage of the population use LFT tests when symptomatic. Communications should emphasise the superiority of, and need for, PCR tests in people with symptoms.