Knowledge barriers in the symptomatic-COVID-19 testing programme in the UK: an observational study
Mark S Graham,
Carole H Sudre,
David Alden Drew,
Benjamin M Rader,
Tim D Spector,
Christina M Astley
Posted 17 Mar 2021
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.03.16.21253719
Posted 17 Mar 2021
Background Symptomatic testing programmes are crucial to the COVID-19 pandemic response. We sought to examine United Kingdom (UK) testing rates amongst individuals with test-qualifying symptoms, and factors associated with not testing. Methods We analysed a cohort of untested symptomatic app users (N=1,237), nested in the Zoe COVID Symptom Study (Zoe, N= 4,394,948); and symptomatic survey respondents who wanted, but did not have a test (N=1,956), drawn from the University of Maryland-Facebook Covid-19 Symptom Survey (UMD-Facebook, N=775,746). Findings The proportion tested among individuals with incident test-qualifying symptoms rose from ~20% to ~75% from April to December 2020 in Zoe. Testing was lower with one vs more symptoms (73.0% vs 85.0%), or short vs long symptom duration (72.6% vs 87.8%). 40.4% of survey respondents did not identify all three test-qualifying symptoms. Symptom identification decreased for every decade older (OR=0.908 [95% CI 0.883-0.933]). Amongst symptomatic UMD-Facebook respondents who wanted but did not have a test, not knowing where to go was the most cited factor (32.4%); this increased for each decade older (OR=1.207 [1.129-1.292]) and for every 4-years fewer in education (OR=0.685 [0.599-0.783]). Interpretation Despite current UK messaging on COVID-19 testing, there is a knowledge gap about when and where to test, and this may be contributing to the ~25% testing gap. Risk factors, including older age and less education, highlight potential opportunities to tailor public health messages.
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