23 February 2022

‘Significant’ jump in proportion of close contacts taking daily Covid-19 tests

23 February 2022

The proportion of people taking daily lateral flow tests because they are a close contact of someone who has Covid-19 has jumped “significantly” compared with last month – though around two-fifths are not bothering to report their test results, a new survey has suggested.

Anyone who is fully vaccinated but who is a close contact of a positive case of coronavirus is recommended to take a lateral flow test (LFT) every day for seven days, according to the current Government advice.

But this guidance is being dropped in England from February 24, along with the legal requirement for someone to self-isolate if they test positive.

Some 80% of fully-vaccinated adults in England surveyed between January 31 and February 5 who had been in close contact with a positive Covid-19 case said they had taken daily LFTs – “significantly higher” than the figure nearly a month earlier (70%), the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

At the same time, the proportion who said they had difficultly obtaining the tests was “significantly lower”, down from 46% to just 19%.

The survey was taken before the recent announcement by the Government that free LFTs are to end in England on April 1.

Some two-fifths (40%) of respondents said they never reported their test results, however. Among 18 to 29-year-olds this figure is even higher, at 56%.

Instructions included in LFT kits state that all results – positive or negative – should be reported to the NHS.

Only 20% of respondents who had been in close contact with a positive case of Covid-19 said they had not taken daily LFTs.

The most common reasons for this included “I do not think it’s useful” (27% of those not taking tests) and “I did not have access to enough lateral flow tests” (19%).

The figures suggest that in the period up to early February there was a growing awareness among adults in England of the importance of taking daily tests, along with a willingness to take them regularly – if not always to report the results.

This period coincided with very high Covid-19 infection levels among the population, with around one in 20 people in England estimated to have the virus.

Future surveys by the ONS will indicate whether the behaviour of vaccinated people who have been in contact with a positive case is likely to have changed as a result of the Government’s decision to scrap most Covid-19 regulations.

The latest survey also found around three-fifths of respondents (61%) said they had taken additional measures to keep themselves and others safe, beyond the current Government guidelines.

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