Local Community Response to Mass Asymptomatic COVID-19 Testing in Liverpool, England: A Social Media Analysis

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Form JMIR Res. 2022 May 8. doi: 10.2196/34422. Online ahead of print.

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: Asymptomatic mass testing for COVID-19 was first piloted in the UK in Liverpool in November 2020. There is limited evidence on the uptake of mass testing and previously where testing for surge have been deployed, adoption has been low.

OBJECTIVE: There was an urgent need to rapidly assess acceptance of asymptomatic testing, specifically identifying barriers and facilitators to participation.

METHODS: As part of the broader assessment, we conducted a rapid thematic analysis of local community stories on social media to provide insights into those unlikely to engage in testing or other testing techniques. standard assessment, such as surveys or interviews. Three publicly available data sources have been identified; the comments section of a local online newspaper, the town hall’s Facebook page and Twitter. The data was collected between 2 and 8 November 2020, to cover the period between the announcement of mass testing in Liverpool and the first week of testing. A total of 1,096 comments were sampled; 219 newspaper comments, 472 Facebook comments and 405 Tweets. Data were analyzed using an inductive thematic approach.

RESULTS: The main barriers were accessibility, including access to the site and concerns about queues. Queues were also highlighted as a concern due to the risk of transmission. The consequences of testing, including an increase in cases resulting in further restrictions and the financial impact of having to self-isolate, were also identified as obstacles. Additionally, a lack of trust in the authorities and the test (including the accuracy of the test and the purpose of the test) was identified. Comments coded as indicative of a lack of trust were in some cases coded as indicative of a strong collective identity with the city of Liverpool and marginalization due to feelings of being test subjects. However, other comments coded as identification with Liverpool were coded as indicative of motivation to engage in testing and encouraging others to do so; for this group, being part of a pilot project was seen as a positive experience and an opportunity to demonstrate that the city could successfully manage the virus.

CONCLUSIONS: Our analysis underscores the importance of promoting honest and open communication to encourage and leverage existing community identities to strengthen the legitimacy of asymptomatic testing as policy. Additionally, adequate and accessible financial support should be in place prior to the implementation of asymptomatic community testing to alleviate any concerns about financial hardship. Rapid thematic analysis of social media is a pragmatic method for gathering information from communities about the acceptability of public health interventions, such as mass testing or vaccination.

PMID:35658094 | DO I:10.2196/34422

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