Nearly 33% say Covid-19 positive cases ‘reckless or careless’

Widespread confusion about how test and trace system operates, ESRI survey reveals

Almost one in three Irish people believe anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 is to blame for contracting the illness and has either been reckless or careless, according to a piece of research published this morning.

The survey from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) also points to a widespread misunderstanding of how the test and trace system operates.

It suggests that almost 50 per cent of people are unaware that calling a GP to discuss symptoms is free of charge while more than a third of people wrongly believing they will have to pay for a Covid-19 test if it is recommended by their doctor.

The research group has warned that the wrongly perceived costs and the misplaced stigma that many attach to a positive diagnosis could be making a significant number of people who experience symptoms of the illness from getting tested.

The findings, based on a nationally representative survey of 1,000 adults in Ireland carried out in early July, examined public understanding of the Covid-19 test-and-trace system in order to identify potential barriers to engagement.

Respondents were asked about each stage of the process, from arranging a test to getting results and notifying close contacts if necessary.

The study found that while there is overwhelming public support for the system, just 3 per cent of those polled were able to answer all comprehension questions correctly.

Younger adults were more likely to be affected by the issues identified, said the ESRI.

People in their 20s and 30s were less likely to know the GP consultation was free, more likely to believe getting tested would be a hassle and uncomfortable, more pessimistic about result wait times and more worried about being identified by their close contacts.

What else does the research show?

Despite how easily the virus spreads, more than 70 per cent of people across all socio-demographic groups said someone who contracts Covid-19 has been careless or reckless in following public health advice, the research indicates.

"The public overwhelmingly agree that the Test-and-Trace system is vital for controlling the spread of Covid-19," said Dr Shane Timmons of the ESRI's Behavioural Research Unit. "But misconceptions about the system could mean people don't seek a test as quickly as possible."

He said that people needed to be reminded that they should always call any GP or out-of-hours service straight away if they suspect they might have symptoms. “Doing so is free and can help make sure you don’t spread the virus to someone else,” he said.