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ObjectiveTesting for COVID-19 was a key component of the UK's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This strategy relied on positive individuals self-isolating to reduce transmission, making isolation the lynchpin in the public health approach. Therefore, we scoped evidence to systematically identify and categorise barriers and facilitators to compliance with self-isolation guidance during the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK, to inform public health strategies in future pandemics.DesignA rapid scoping review was conducted.Search strategyKey terms were used to search literature databases (PubMed, Scopus and the WHO COVID-19 Research Database, on 7 November 2022), Google Scholar and stakeholder-identified manuscripts, ultimately including evidence published in English from UK-based studies conducted between 2020 and 2022.Data extraction and synthesisData were extracted and synthesised into themes, organised broadly into capability, opportunity and motivation, and reviewed with key stakeholders from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).ResultsWe included 105 sources, with 63 identified from UKHSA and used to inform their decision-making during the pandemic. Influences on the decision to comply with isolation guidance were categorised into six themes: perceived ability to isolate; information and guidance; logistics; social influences, including trust; perceived value; and perceived consequences. Individuals continuously assessed these factors in deciding whether or not to comply with guidance and self-isolate.ConclusionsDecisions to self-isolate after a positive test were influenced by multiple factors, including individuals' beliefs, concerns, priorities and personal circumstances. Future testing strategies must facilitate meaningful financial, practical and mental health support to allow individuals to overcome the perceived and actual negative consequences of isolating. Clear, consistent communication of the purpose and procedures of isolating will also be critical to support compliance with self-isolation guidance, and should leverage people's perceived value in protecting others. Building public trust is also essential, but requires investment before the next pandemic starts.

Original publication




Journal article


BMJ open

Publication Date





Centre for Global Health Research, Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK


EY-Oxford Health Analytics Consortium, Humans, Pandemics, United Kingdom, COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19 Testing