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Wednesday 7 June 2023 Dublin: 9°C
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# Coronavirus
Almost half of people don't know calling GP to discuss Covid-19 symptoms is free, ESRI finds
The findings are based on a nationally representative survey of 1,000 adults in Ireland run in early July.

ALMOST HALF OF people (44%) don’t know that calling their GP to discuss Covid-19 symptoms is free, according to new research by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI). 

Over one third of people (36%) think they could be charged for a Covid-19 test. 

These wrongly perceived costs could deter or delay people from arranging a test if they experience symptoms, the researchers warned. 

The findings are based on a nationally representative survey of 1,000 adults in Ireland run in early July, which examined public understanding of the Covid-19 Test-and-Trace system to identify potential barriers to engagement.

Respondents were asked about each stage of the process, from arranging a test to getting results and notifying close contacts if necessary.

The study found overwhelming public support for the system, but just 3% of people were able to answer all comprehension questions correctly.

The survey also found that a majority of people held negative views about those who test positive for Covid-19.

Despite how easily the virus spreads, over 70% of people across all socio-demographic groups believed that someone who contracts Covid-19 has been careless or reckless in following public health advice.

Fear of being blamed may be a barrier to arranging a test quickly when symptoms appear, the researchers said.

The researchers found that younger adults were more likely to be affected by the issues identified.

People in their 20s and 30s were less likely to know the GP consultation is free, more likely to believe getting tested would be a hassle and uncomfortable, more pessimistic about result wait times and more worried about being identified by their close contacts. 

“The public overwhelmingly agree that the Test-and-Trace system is vital for controlling the spread of Covid-19,” said Dr Shane Timmons of the ESRI’s Behavioural Research Unit.

“But misconceptions about the system could mean people don’t seek a test as quickly as possible,” Timmons said.

“You should call any GP or out-of-hours service straight away if you suspect that you might have symptoms – doing so is free and can help make sure you don’t spread the virus to someone else.”

The ESRI’s paper is being supported by the Department of Health and is part of a research porgramme undertaken by the Behavioural Change Subgroup of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET). 

Ronan Glynn

This research comes after Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn said earlier this month that people should not have to pay for a Covid-19 test if they are concerned that they have the virus. 

His comments followed that the potential cost of getting a test could prevent those who have the virus from contacting their doctor if they are showing symptoms. 

“No one should have to pay. If [people] are concerned they’ve got Covid, they should have an assessment with their GP and they should be able to get a test without any charge,” he said.

“That has to be fundamental in the management of this pandemic. People need to be able to come forward and get tested quickly where they’ve got symptoms or where they’ve any concerns.”

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