Publication - Research and analysis

COVID-19 support study: international travellers research findings from April 2021

Published: 3 Jun 2021

Interim findings only and based on waves 1 and 2 of fieldwork carried out between 19th – 31st March 2021 and 12th April – 5th May 2021.

Published:
3 Jun 2021
COVID-19 support study: international travellers research findings from April 2021

The findings included here are interim findings only and based on online survey fieldwork for waves 1 and 2 which were carried out between:

  • wave 1: Friday 19th March 2021 and Wednesday 31st March 2021
  • wave 2: Monday 12th April and Wednesday 5th May 2021 

Data for the majority of measures has been presented for both waves combined. To note, between waves 1 and 2 some additional quality assurance and clarification of the compliance measures was carried out to ensure getting or returning a Covid-19 test during isolation was considered compliant across all relevant measures.  This means some of the findings from wave 1 have been updated in this most recent report. In the final report, wave 1 compliance figures will be updated and provided separately.

Initial observations from the qualitative interviews have been included in this summary, where appropriate. These 30 follow-up qualitative interviews were completed in April and May. These were broken down by case type as follows: 10 index cases, 13 contacts and 7 international travellers.

When interpreting the survey findings included in this report it should be borne in mind that:

  • this is an opt-in survey. Therefore findings are representative of survey participants and not all those asked to self-isolate by Test and Protect
  • the results are based on two waves of data collection only and tests of statistical significance will only be carried out after data collection has been completed

Sample

To date, 34,105 eligible adults within the Test & Protect system have been invited to take part in the survey (wave 1 = 12,751 and wave 2=21,354).

  • a total of 2646 adults have participated in the survey to date (wave 1=908, wave 2=1738).
  • response rates vary by case type with international travellers most likely to take part (wave 1=14%, wave 2=12%) and contact cases least likely to participate (waves 1 and 2=4%).
  • response rates across waves 1 and 2 were similar for all case types.

Findings on international traveller participants that took part in waves 1 and 2 of the survey are presented in this section. Index and contact case findings are presented separately.

Planning for self-isolation

Across waves 1 and 2 almost all international travellers that took part in the survey had made arrangements for their self-isolation before arriving into Scotland, with just 2% reporting that they did not make arrangements in advance. Around 8 in 10 (82%) booked a test kit to self-isolate at home, while 17% reported booking a managed isolation (quarantine) package.

The most common pre-departure arrangements made by international travellers was to book a COVID-19 test kit for home use, this was particularly true among those who arrived into Scotland via another UK country (95%). Around a quarter (27%) of those who travelled directly into Scotland had booked a managed hotel quarantine package in advance, while 71% had arranged to self-isolate at home. Very small proportions, in both groups, indicated having booked neither a managed quarantine package or a COVID-19 test kit to self-isolate at home.

Three quarters (73%) agreed that it was easy to book and pay for their particular self-isolation arrangement. Fourteen percent did not agree that their arrangement was easy to book and pay for and a similar proportion neither agreed nor disagreed.

Overall compliance

Please see the study overview section for more information on how compliance was measured.

When asked directly how well they managed to comply with self-isolation, most (92%) international travellers that participated were of the view that they complied ‘all of the time’. While just 8% of international travellers that took part in the survey felt they managed to comply with the requirement to self-isolate ‘some of the time’, no-one reported being unable to comply with the requirement at all.

However, according to our behavioural measure, full compliance was 71% and partial compliance 28%. Non-compliance was low on both the self-assessed and behavioural measures.

The behavioural measure comes from responses to (i) how soon began self-isolation, (ii) whether they left self-isolation and (iii) how many days, in total they isolated for.

Note that a person who didn’t start self-isolation straight away, but who only reported COVID-19 test related activities before starting, was treated as compliant on the ‘when started isolation’ measure. Similarly someone who reported leaving home/accommodation during isolation for a COVID-19 test related reason only was handled as compliant on this measure. This was a change between waves 1 and 2 to ensure Covid-19 tests were appropriately handled across all relevant measures. 

Summary of compliance behaviours

Across waves 1 and 2:

  • Around nine in ten (89%) international travellers that took part in the survey reported complying with the requirement to begin self-isolation immediately. Those who did not start straight away, but only carried out the permitted activity of getting/sending a COVID-19 test beforehand, were categorised as having started straight away on this measure.
  • Eight in ten international traveller participants complied with the requirement not to leave their home/accommodation during their self-isolation period or only left to get/send a COVID-19 test (80%).
  • Fourteen percent of international travellers reported being in close contact with someone from outside their household/accommodation during their period of self-isolation.
  • While just 1% appeared unable to comply with the requirement to self-isolate for 10 days, other data collected indicate that the proportion of participants reporting leaving their home/accommodation during this period was higher than this.

Among those international travellers that reported leaving home/accommodation during self-isolation (irrespective of whether it was for a permitted activity or not), the most commonly cited days to leave were day 2 (66% of those who reported leaving home mentioned doing so on this day) and day 8 (29% reported leaving on day 8).  These are the dates international travellers are expected to carry out testing, so may leave home to return their tests on these days.

The group of international travellers that reported leaving their home/accommodation during their period of self-isolation was almost exclusively made up of those self-isolating at home.

Knowledge of rules and guidance

When asked how many days someone should self-isolate for if they test positive for COVID-19, just over half (56%) of international traveller participants answered 10 days. A significant proportion (41%) reported the requirement was to isolate for 11 days or more, with 14 days being the most common answer given (37% of all international travellers). Just 3% reported that the official guidance was to isolate for fewer days than is actually the case.

Eighty percent of international travellers that took part reported that it was ‘correct’ that a person should self-isolate for 10 days if they’ve been informed they have been in close contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19, even if they later test negative themselves. Around one in ten (12%) reported that the statement was ‘incorrect’ while 8% weren’t sure either way.

Testing

Most (94%) international travellers that took part and reported having been tested for COVID-19 reported that the result of their most recent test was negative. At the time of taking part in the survey, the remainder of the international traveller sample had not received the result of their most recent test.

It was not possible to explore compliance by result of last COVID-19 test given the high proportion (94%) of international travellers that tested negative at their most recent test.

Attitudes and Experiences

Mental Health

International travellers were asked whether they thought self-isolation had a positive or negative impact on their own mental health or did not impact it either way. Across both waves 1 and 2, just under half (48%) of international travellers reported that self-isolation had a negative impact on their mental health, 43% said it made no difference, while 9% said it had impacted positively.

Participants were also asked what impact, if any, their own requirement to self-isolate had on the mental health of others in their household/accommodation. Around a third (36%) of international travellers reported that their own requirement to self-isolate had negatively impacted on the mental health of others in the home. Over half (56%) reported that it had neither a positive or negative impact on the mental health of others in their household/accommodation, and 8% said it had a positive impact

Finances

Around half of the international travellers that took part indicated that they had managed/were managing comfortably on their household income at the time of taking part (49%), while 13% indicated that they had struggled/were struggling over the period.

Understanding information

International travellers that took part in the survey were asked how much they agreed or disagreed with the statement that “It was easy to understand the Scottish Government information on international travel rules during the pandemic”.

While just over half (54%) of all international travellers agreed that the Scottish Government information was easy to understand, around a third (32%) did not agree that this was the case.

Views on self-isolation and travel restrictions

Around 8 in 10 (82%) international travellers that took part in the survey were in agreement that self-isolation was an effective way of helping prevent the spread of COVID-19. Just 8% disagreed with the statement suggesting they do not view self-isolation as an effective strategy.

When asked if they agreed or disagreed that international travel restrictions would help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and new variants of it, 6 in 10 international travellers agreed that they would. Two in 10 (20%) disagreed with the statement and a similar proportion (20%) neither agreed nor disagreed.

Government or individual decision-making on self-isolation

Participants were asked the extent to which they agreed or disagreed with the statement ‘It should be up to the individual, not the government, to decide whether they need to self-isolate or not’.

The majority (70%) of international travellers that took part did not agree that it should be up to individuals to decide whether to self-isolate or not (70%).  Fourteen percent agreed with the statement that it should be left to the individual to decide, while a similar proportion (16%) neither agreed nor disagreed.