Improving adherence to ‘test, trace and isolate’: Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine

G James Rubin, Louise E Smith, GJ Melendez-Torres, Lucy Yardley

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate (Academic Journal)peer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Isolating sick patients, tracing their contacts and placing them into quarantine is a strategy used by generations of public health physicians in their fight against infectious disease. As coronavirus lockdowns around the world start to ease, new systems based on this strategy are being rolled out to prevent a resurgence of the pandemic. If these systems do not consider the behavioural issues posed by symptom reporting and quarantine, they will struggle to meet their goals.

The goals of this commentary are to outline the key behavioural issues that a test, trace and isolate system for the management of COVID-19 will face, and to suggest specific ways that system design can address these. In this paper, we highlight five areas in which these behavioural issues should be taken into account, structured to follow the steps of the test, trace and isolate process: development of symptoms; reporting of symptoms; isolation; reporting of contacts; and quarantining contacts. The issues we highlight largely apply regardless of the modality of system, be it via an app, website or in-person consultation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)335-338
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of the Royal Society of Medicine
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 10 Sept 2020

Bibliographical note

Rubin and Smith are funded by the National Institute for Health Research Health Protection Research Unit (NIHR HPRU) in Emergency Preparedness and Response, a partnership between Public Health England, King’s College London and the University of East Anglia. The collection of the survey data was funded by a separate grant awarded by NIHR. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NIHR, Public Health England or the Department of Health and Social Care. Yardley is an NIHR Senior Investigator and her research programme is partly supported by NIHR HPRU for Behavioural Science and Evaluation, NIHR Applied Research Collaboration (ARC)-West and the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre (BRC).

Structured keywords

  • Physical and Mental Health


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