The social media response to twice-weekly mass asymptomatic testing in England

BMC Public Health. 2022 Jan 27;22(1):182. doi: 10.1186/s12889-022-12605-2.


Background: From 9th April 2021, everyone in England has been encouraged to take two COVID-19 tests per week. This is the first time that national mass asymptomatic testing has been introduced in the UK and the effectiveness of the policy depends on uptake with testing and willingness to self-isolate following a positive test result. This paper examines attitudes towards twice-weekly testing, as well as barriers and facilitators to engaging in testing.

Methods: Between 5th April and 28th May 2021 we searched Twitter, Facebook, and online news articles with publicly available comment sections to identify comments relating to twice-weekly testing. We identified 5783 comments which were then analysed using a framework analysis.

Results: We identified nine main themes. Five themes related to barriers to engaging in testing: low perceived risk from COVID-19; mistrust in the government; concern about taking a test; perceived ineffectiveness of twice-weekly testing policy; and perceived negative impact of twice-weekly testing policy. Four themes related to facilitators to engaging in testing: wanting to protect others; positive perceptions of tests; a desire to return to normal; and perceived efficacy for reducing asymptomatic transmission.

Conclusions: Overall, the comments identified indicated predominately negative attitudes towards the twice weekly testing policy. Several recommendations can be made to improve engagement with twice weekly testing, including: 1) communicate openly and honestly about the purpose of testing; 2) provide information about the accuracy of tests; 3) provide financial support for those required to self-isolate, and; 4) emphasise accessibility of testing.

Keywords: Asymptomatic testing; COVID-19; Public health.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • England
  • Government
  • Humans
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Social Media*