Manchester Metropolitan University's campus

Preliminary research shows that less than half of the UK public can name the top Covid-19 symptoms and less than one in five isolates themselves after experiencing symptoms despite government guidelines.

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

The study, which has not yet been published or peer-reviewed, collected data from 30,000 people in the UK between March and August. It turned out that “just under half of the sample were able to describe the main Covid-19 symptoms as persistent cough, fever or loss of the sense of taste or smell.”

The results, posted on the university’s website on Friday, coincided with the UK’s highest increase in infections in a day since the pandemic began – with 6,874 new infections, bringing the total to 423,326 confirmed cases.

“The UK public has good intentions to adhere to a testing, trace and isolation system, but if they develop symptoms there are a number of factors that will influence their decisions and behavior,” said James Rubin, author of the study from King’s College London.

The study found that “financial constraints and caring responsibilities are common barriers to compliance,” added Rubin.

Men, young people, people with children, key workers, people of lower socioeconomic status, and people with greater economic hardship during the pandemic were less adherent to protective measures, the study found.

The results suggest that compliance could be improved through clearer public health messages and financial support to ease the pressures of self-isolation, the study authors added.