Testing individuals with COVID signs has been a pillar of the UK’s pandemic response, decreasing transmission by figuring out and isolating these with the virus. However to be efficient, it depends on individuals with signs getting examined, which raises an apparent query: what quantity of symptomatic individuals truly take a check?
The ZOE COVID Examine, which is funded by the federal government and run by a gaggle together with King’s School London and town’s Man’s and St Thomas’ hospitals, is uniquely positioned to reply this query. Every day greater than 4 million members within the UK report any signs they’re feeling through the examine’s app, and document the outcomes of any latest COVID assessments.
Testing guidelines have developed in the course of the pandemic, however one rule has remained constant: when you have one of many major three signs of COVID listed by the NHS (fever, a persistent new cough, or lack of style or scent) however don’t in any other case know when you have the virus, you need to take a PCR check. And by analysing the examine’s knowledge, my colleagues and I’ve been capable of see what quantity of members experiencing any of those signs then go on to have a check shortly after their signs seem.
The outcomes have been stunning. In December 2020 we discovered that 25% of those that reported one of many three core signs didn’t report a PCR consequence shortly afterwards, suggesting they weren’t getting examined. This was regardless of there being loads of spare testing capability on the time.
Armed with this data, we then despatched out a survey to a pattern of 4,000 customers within the UK who had had signs however no check, to raised perceive why they didn’t get examined. We discovered this was largely down to a few causes.
Firstly, individuals have been much less more likely to get examined if they’d solely one of many three signs or if their signs lasted solely a day. This implies individuals may need the faulty view that their sickness is unlikely to be COVID if their signs are temporary or gentle.
We additionally discovered that 40% of our respondents couldn’t establish all three of the signs that qualify you to get a COVID check. Older teams have been much less more likely to know: 80% of respondents aged 25-34 may establish all three signs, however simply 25% of these 75 and over may.
Plus, even when people knew they need to get a check, we discovered they weren’t all the time capable of. Of those who wished however didn’t get one, the commonest purpose supplied was, “I didn’t know the place to go as a way to get examined”. Different widespread causes have been “I used to be not capable of get to a testing location” and “I attempted to get a check however was not capable of get one”.
Collectively, these outcomes show that data is usually a barrier to getting examined for COVID. Individuals could not know that their gentle sickness may nonetheless be COVID, they could not realise that their signs imply they need to get a check, and even when they need a check, they could not know get one.
Increasing the symptom record
These findings may have huge penalties. It’s essential that we establish and isolate as many circumstances of COVID as potential to assist scale back the unfold of the illness. Those that don’t get examined could proceed their each day lives, unwittingly infecting individuals at house and at work.
Our outcomes present that educating the general public is essential for growing check take-up. Efforts have to be made to tell the general public that even gentle signs will be COVID, to show them what these signs are, and the way they could get examined. It’d assist to focus on this messaging at older populations, who’re much less more likely to know what signs qualify them for a check.
Not too long ago, there have been calls to develop the record of signs that qualify somebody for a COVID check, primarily based on proof that with variants equivalent to omicron and delta, many contaminated individuals have signs aside from the core three. Whereas this strategy could also be smart, our outcomes point out that intensive efforts shall be wanted to teach the general public about any new set of signs to make sure that individuals experiencing them do get examined.