Coronavirus (COVID-19) support study experiences of and compliance with self-isolation: main report

This research explores compliance with and experiences of the 10 day period of self-isolation undertaken by index cases, contact cases, and international travellers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The research took place between March and June 2021.

This document is part of a collection


1. Referred to throughout the report as 'behavioural compliance' – see the 'Methods' chapter for more information

2. As part of a hotel quarantine package

3. See

4. See



7. Along with vaccinations, FACTS, border control measures, self-isolation and wider care and support

8. See

9. Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours (SPI-B) (2020). The impact of financial and other targeted support on rates of self-isolation or quarantine [SPI-B: 16 September 2020. Available at:

10. At the time of publishing this report the communication message 'FACTS' was under review as part of the move to take Scotland beyond Level 0 to the next phase of pandemic handling.

11. COVID-19 support study: experiences of and compliance with self-isolation - (

12. Public Health Scotland estimate that, when contacted by the Test and Protect system, around a third of Index Cases and a quarter of Contact Cases agreed to be contacted about follow-up research.

13. This was used as a proxy for International Travellers in the Test and Protect system who were also an Index Case (due to testing positive). These people were removed from the eligible Index and Contact Case sample as they were invited to take part as International Travellers.

14. It was possible for contact tracers to update a person's case record after having spoken to them.

15. Every attempt was made to only include those isolating in Scotland, but it is possible that a small number isolated elsewhere.

16. The sample excluded those who provided Test and Protect with a Home Office email address as these cases tended to be asylum seekers, seasonal workers etc who don't typically have their own email or phone number and consequently it would not be possible to pass invitations on to them.

17. The exact number of days SMS invitations were issued for varied across the three waves of survey fieldwork. For Index and Contact Cases the number of days invitations were issued for increased over the three waves to take account of the decline in positive cases. The opposite was the case with International Travellers with the number of days declining across the three waves of fieldwork.

18. Public Health Scotland did not have equivalent data for international travellers for comparison of the survey sample with the Test and Protect system at the time of report writing.

19. Significance testing determines the likelihood of a result being a result of chance or a genuine difference that is likely to be repeated if the data was collected again.

20. Working for at least 10 hours per week / government training scheme

21. In education (not work or government training scheme)

22. Neither working (for at least 10 hours per week) nor in education

23. Survey participants were invited to take part at, or around, day 8 of their self-isolation but were not required to complete it straight away or before their official isolation period ended.

24. See 'Methods' for more on what the term 'self-isolation' refers to in the context of the research and the COVID-19 pandemic response in Scotland

25. Quantitative findings presented in this Chapter are based on bivariate analysis. See Chapter 2.2.6 for a discussion of the strengths and weakness of this type of analysis.

26. See 'Behavioural Compliance' in Appendix A Glossary for a detailed description of how the measure of behavioural compliance was derived.

27. It is possible that a participant classified as fully compliant at the point of taking part in the survey did not manage to remain fully compliant for the duration of their self-isolation period. There was no way of capturing this in the survey.

28. See ONS 'Coronavirus and self-isolation after testing positive in England: 7 June to 12 June 2021'

29. See ONS 'Coronavirus and self-isolation after being in contact with a positive case in England: 1 to 5 June 2021'

30. This represents significant decreases from the previous wave when compliance was 86% for Index Cases and 92% for Contact Cases.

31. See

32. Please note that compliance is not necessarily defined consistently across these surveys.

33. Individual fieldwork periods: Wave 1: 19th – 31st March 2021; Wave 2: 12th April – 15th May 2021; Wave 3: 10th May – 2nd June 2021

34. That is, their own assessment of their compliance was more positive than their behavioural measure of compliance.

35. This was introduced in Wave 2 of the survey fieldwork and was also included in Wave 3.

36. Since not everyone still self-isolating at the time of taking part in the survey will have managed to complete it successfully, it is likely that actual adherence to this requirement is lower than 93%.

37. There are some exceptional circumstances, such as medical emergencies, where leaving home during self-isolation is permitted. It is possible that some of those who cited leaving home for a medical reason did so because of such exceptional circumstances.

38. See 'Behavioural Compliance' in Appendix A Glossary for a detailed description of how the measure of behavioural compliance was derived.

39. Breakdown for those who were not compliant is not shown because of the very small numbers in this category.

40. Please see Chapter two for details of how the summary measure of behavioural compliance was derived.

41. This was the case for both Index Cases (76%) and Contact Cases (73%).

42. See Chapter 2.5 for definitions of compliance used and activities allowed.

43. The question asked about, and gave examples of, planned medical appointments. It is possible that some of the ambiguity that exists around the permissibility of medical appointments is because there are exceptional circumstance (e.g. medical emergency) when leaving home during self-isolation is permitted).

44. Where sample size permitted (50+ participants), the association between knowledge of permitted activities and whether participants themselves reported carrying out the activity during self-isolation was explored.

45. The examples given in the question text were planned medical appointments - doctor/hospital/dental appointment

46. See

47. See Chapter 8 for findings on views and experience of formal support during self-isolation

48. The sample size for non-compliance was too small to present.

49. See

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52. Difference is not significant for paying more for groceries by age

53. Compliance here refers to the behavioural measure

54. Difference not significant for employment

55. See

56. Following positive lateral flow and PCR test results


58. Bearing in mind that the research was timed to take place towards or as close to the end of the self-isolation period as possible (see 'Methods')

59. Multiple responses were allowed, hence the total for all who got tested because they had come into contact with someone who tested positive is less than the sum of the two separate categories

60. See Vaccine deployment plan update at

61. See

62. There were no significant variations in the proportions offered and accepting contact from their Local Authority by compliance level.

63. These figures should be treated with caution due to the small bases.

64. The five most common types of support are included here. See Table 8.3 for all responses given.

65. It should be noted that the National Assistance Helpline acts as a means to direct people to their Local Authority for support and to seek out information. The reasons for the differences in satisfaction between those accessing their LA directly and those using the NAH are therefore not clear. It may be that individuals use these different routes for different reasons, but this cannot be deduced from the data.

66. Applications for SISG or not applying due to perceived ineligibility did not vary significantly by sex, age, presence of long-standing conditions or carer status.

67. From their Local Authority and/or via the National Assistance Helpline

68. Behavioural compliance is a derived measure of compliance based on how soon an individual started to self-isolate after being advised to do so, whether or not they left their home/accommodation during this period and how long they were able to self-isolate for. A person's responses to these measures were used to provide a measure of a participant's overall compliance. A participant who complied with all of these measures is described as 'fully compliant'. Someone who complied with some, but not all, is described as 'partially compliant' and a participant who did not comply with any is described as 'non-compliant'.



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