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Preliminary research indicates less than half of the British public could name the key Covid-19 symptoms and fewer than one in five self-isolated after experiencing symptoms, despite government guidelines.

The pre-print study from King’s College London found that around 70% of people said they “intended to self-isolate if they were to develop key symptoms,” but in fact only 18.2% of those who developed symptoms in the last week actually reported self-isolating. 

The study — which has yet to be published or peer-reviewed — collected data from 30,000 people in the United Kingdom between March and August. It found “just under half of the sample were able to name the key Covid-19 symptoms as being a persistent new onset cough, fever or loss of sense of taste or smell.” 

Released on the university’s website Friday, the findings coincided with the UK reporting its highest single-day infection rise since the pandemic began — with 6,874 new infections, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 423,326.

“The UK public have good intentions to adhere to a test, trace and isolate system but, when they do develop symptoms, there are a number of factors that affect their decisions and their behaviour,” said James Rubin, an author of the study from King’s College London.

The study indicated “financial constraints and caring responsibilities are common barriers to adherence,” Rubin added.

Men, young people, those with children, key workers, those with lower socio-economic status and those experiencing greater economic hardship during the pandemic were less likely to adhere to protective measures, the research indicated. 

The results suggest adherence could be improved by clearer public health messaging and financial assistance to reduce the pressures of self-isolation, the study’s authors added.

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