Only 18% of people self-isolate after developing coronavirus symptoms, UK study finds

Research also shows just 11% of people in contact with those testing positive stay at home for 14 days

Adam Forrest
Friday 25 September 2020 12:41 BST
Coronavirus in numbers

Less than one-fifth of people in the UK who develop coronavirus symptoms are following the rules and self-isolating at home, a major new study indicates.

Research led by King’s College London showed most people intended to obey the guidelines and stay at home for 14 days – 70 per cent of those without symptoms said they would be willing to do so.

However, only 18 per cent of people who developed symptoms between March and August said they had actually self-isolated to stop the spread of the virus.

And in a worrying sign for the government’s contact-tracing operation, only 11 per cent of those in contact with someone testing positive for Covid-19 said they had stayed at home for two weeks.

People in England who refuse an order to self-isolate from 28 September face fines of up to £10,000, Boris Johnson’s government announced earlier this week. Fines will initially start at £1,000 but will rise for repeat offenders and “egregious breaches”.

NHS Test and Trace call handlers have been told to “escalate” any suspicion of non-compliance of self-isolation rules to local police forces.

The scientists behind the self-isolation study of more than 31,000 people – carried out by several of Britain’s top behaviour scientists – suggested people should be given more financial support to stay at home.

The researchers found men were more likely than women not to follow the rules, alongside younger people, those with children, those on low incomes and key workers.

“Our results suggest that financial constraints and caring responsibilities impeded adherence to self-isolation,” said the behavioural experts.

Survey shows 18% of people with symptoms self-isolates

“To encourage adherence, policies must ensure that people are adequately reimbursed for any potential losses.”

They added: “Key workers have a greater financial need or feel a greater social pressure to attend work and are less likely to be able to work from home.”

Ministers hope the new NHS Test and Trace Support payment of £500 will ensure that those on low incomes are able to self-isolate without having to worry about their finances.

It comes as Public Health England’s Professor Yvonne Doyle pleaded with the public follow the stricter measures announced earlier this week in order to help control the “clear” rise in cases.

The number of lab-confirmed cases of Covid-19 across the four nations rose to 6,634 as of 9am on Thursday, taking the overall number of cases confirmed to 416,363.

Prof Doyle said: “The signals are clear … We must all follow the new measures that have been brought in to help control the virus.”

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