Public perceptions and interactions with UK COVID-19 Test, Trace and Isolate policies, and implications for pandemic infectious disease modelling
Marshall GC., Skeva R., Jay C., Silva MEP., Fyles M., House T., Davis EL., Pi L., Medley GF., Quilty BJ., Dyson L., Yardley L., Fearon E.
Background The efforts to contain SARS-CoV-2 and reduce the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have been supported by Test, Trace and Isolate (TTI) systems in many settings, including the United Kingdom. Mathematical models of transmission and TTI interventions, used to inform design and policy choices, make assumptions about the public’s behaviour in the context of a rapidly unfolding and changeable emergency. This study investigates public perceptions and interactions with UK TTI policy in July 2021, assesses them against how TTI processes are conceptualised and represented in models, and then interprets the findings with modellers who have been contributing evidence to TTI policy. Methods 20 members of the public recruited via social media were interviewed for one hour about their perceptions and interactions with the UK TTI system. Thematic analysis identified key themes, which were then presented back to a workshop of pandemic infectious disease modellers who assessed these findings against assumptions made in TTI intervention modelling. Workshop members co-drafted this report. Results Themes included education about SARS-CoV-2, perceived risks, trust, mental health and practical concerns. Findings covered testing practices, including the uses of and trust in different types of testing, and the challenges of testing and isolating faced by different demographic groups. This information was judged as consequential to the modelling process, from guiding the selection of research questions, influencing choice of model structure, informing parameter ranges and validating or challenging assumptions, to highlighting where model assumptions are reasonable or where their poor reflection of practice might lead to uninformative results. Conclusions We conclude that deeper engagement with members of the public should be integrated at regular stages of public health intervention modelling.