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Perceptions on undertaking regular asymptomatic self-testing for COVID-19 using lateral flow tests: A qualitative study of university students and staff

By Marta Wanat, Mary Logan, Jennifer Hirst, Charles Vicary, Joseph Jonathan Lee, Rafael Perera, Irene Tracey, Gordon Duff, Peter Tuffano, Thomas R. Fanshawe, Lazaro Mwandigha, Brian Nicholson, Sarah Tonkin-Crine, FD Richard Hobbs

Posted 28 Mar 2021
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.03.26.21254337

Background There has been an increased interest from governments in implementing mass testing for COVID-19 of asymptomatic individuals using Lateral Flow Tests (LFTs). Successful implementation of such programmes depends on several factors, including feasibility, acceptability and how people act on test results. There is a paucity of studies examining these issues. Objective We aimed to examine experiences of university students and staff with experience of regular asymptomatic self-testing using LFTs, and their subsequent behaviours. Methods We invited people who were participating in a weekly testing feasibility study. We conducted semi-structured remote interviews between December 2020 and January 2021. Additional qualitative data from a survey were also analysed. Data were analysed thematically. Results We interviewed 18 and surveyed 214 participants. Participants were motivated to regularly self-test as they wanted to know whether or not they were infected with SARS-CoV-2. Most reported that a negative test result did not change their behaviour but it did provide them with reassurance to engage with permitted activities. In contrast, some participants reported making decisions about visiting other people when they would not have done so otherwise, because they felt reassured by a negative test result. Participants valued the test training but some participants still doubted their ability to carry out the test. Participants were concerned about safety of attending test sites with lots of people and reported home testing was most convenient. Conclusions If governments want to increase uptake of LFT use, clear messages highlighting the benefits of regular testing for family, friends and society in identifying asymptomatic cases are needed. This should be coupled with transparent communication about accuracy of LFTs and how to act on either a positive or negative result. Concerns about safety, convenience of testing, and ability to do tests need to be addressed to ensure successful scaling up asymptomatic testing.

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