Aussies with COVID symptoms not staying home or getting tested

A study reveals more than a third of Aussies with flu-like symptoms spent time in public.

A woman with COVID symptoms outside without a mask

Aside from Western Australia having to deal with its first COVID cases in months, thanks to infected crew members from a ship off the coast of Port Hedland, this week’s case numbers across the country have been pleasingly positive.

But if that is making you feel a bit better about the situation in the country, the latest findings with regard to testing may temper your enthusiasm.

A Monash University study has revealed the extent to which Australians with cold and flu-like symptoms are shunning the testing process and, worse still, carrying on with life as normal while they are potentially infectious.

According to the results from the Survey of COVID-19 Responses to Understand Behaviour (SCRUB) project, more than a third of Australians with symptoms spent time in public and one in five attended work in person, despite rampant cases and deaths in Victoria.

The survey, which was conducted between late August and early September, found just 27 per cent of people with symptoms reported getting tested for COVID-19, which was up from 15 per cent in the previous SCRUB survey, but still concerning for health authorities.

A fifth of those with symptoms said they did not get tested because they didn’t think they had COVID-19.

However, of those who were symptomatic, almost 20 per cent attended work and more than a third spent time in public, only a third wore a face mask and just a quarter avoided close contact with those they lived with.

Thirteen per cent of participants who did get tested did not stay home while waiting for their results, with 15 per cent of that group stating they didn't know that it was a requirement.

The survey wasn’t all bad news, with some positive findings regarding health precautions taken by Australians.

A clear majority (81 per cent) reported that they always followed COVID-19 rules and regulations, while compliance with levels of protective behaviours – such as hand washing, wearing face masks and keeping physical distance from people outside of home – stayed the same or increased on the previous survey. 

Lead researcher Dr Peter Slattery said people needed to change their behaviour if Australia was going to get the virus under control.

“It’s great to see Australians aren’t becoming complacent and are maintaining personal protective behaviours at a high rate,” he said. “Outbreaks last month in New Zealand and New South Wales, as well as the continued high case numbers in Melbourne, saw most people across Australia do the right thing.

“It is also positive to see that Australians are worrying less about issues compared to the last round of SCRUB, indicating that we feel, as a nation, that we are on the road to recovery.

“What is concerning, however, is that we are still seeing people who have cold and flu-like symptoms either fail to get tested or spend time in the community while symptomatic.

“We cannot have symptomatic people acting as though they don’t have the virus when they simply can’t be sure. That’s one of the ways the virus spreads and it will continue to be an issue unless more people get tested and isolate until they receive a negative result.”

There are also concerns that states that have been reporting good COVID cases numbers are potentially more vulnerable to an outbreak spreading quickly than places like Victoria, where the population has better understood the risks.

Dr Norman Swan told ABC News Breakfast on Tuesday that low testing rates in states that had been considered coronavirus free were going to present a problem in future.

“Western Australia, for example, they have got problems because they have gone back to normal,” Dr Swan said. “That means their reproduction number if they get the virus in is well over one.

“The fuel is on the ground ready for the fire in Western Australia, Queensland and other states.

“They have been lulled in to a false sense of security, testing rates are low and that is the problem, whereas Victoria is much better equipped to come out of this with zero spread because there will be mandatory mask wearing for a while and hopefully tests will stay up.”

Are you worried people will spread the virus by turning up at work while they are displaying COVID-19 symptoms? Have you had a COVID-19 test? Would you get one if you started to display cold or flu-like symptoms?

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    COMMENTS

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    Bonnie
    30th Sep 2020
    10:31am
    How stupidly thoughtless are those people who refuse to be tested. They don't care about anyone but themselves. What if it were THEIR grandparents and parents who were dying from COVID, I bet they would be in a rage then, but they won't stop to think of the people THEY infected and how many other people THEY may have killed!! The selfishness of people these days is incredible! I am so pleased I was born 71 years ago when parents taught their children to consider others.
    Country John
    30th Sep 2020
    10:35am
    I agree with you all the way on that one Bonnie. Yes I am pleased I was born back then. Kids were disciplined, we respected their elders. I think I better shut up as I am opening a can of worms. As we used to say Peace and Love.
    Hirajima
    30th Sep 2020
    10:33am
    Covidiocy like this has now been scientifically proven to be related to a lack of basic intelligence. Sad but apparently true.
    https://www.psypost.org/2020/07/study-lower-cognitive-ability-linked-to-non-compliance-with-social-distancing-guidelines-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak-57293
    Winston Smith
    30th Sep 2020
    10:38am
    I have some cold like symptoms almost every day. It's hay fever. I don't bother getting tested almost every day.
    Scott
    30th Sep 2020
    10:50am
    Maybe read the piece you are responding to - and after that explain your point Dr Smith
    Brissiegirl
    30th Sep 2020
    11:09am
    It's simply irrational to demand that a hay fever sufferer should be tested every day. Many people probably don't get tested because they don't want a stick rammed up their nose and on that point there's been several rapid-testing devices invented over the covid-19 duration but when do we ever see them available for purchase? I just self-isolated during a common cold and and that's all it was. A stick forced up my nose by a gloved, cloaked stranger? No thanks.
    This nasty disease imo has been very badly managed by both politicians and health authorities. Instead of stand-over tactics and locking people up, there should have been an emphasis on professional facilitation/assistance/guidance for various cohorts. I live where there's no virus for several months and have been told that I can't travel to another "clean" postcode because I can't be guaranteed "re-admittance". If there's one case in the postcode I travel to, then I'm up for the costs of hotel quarantine.
    So what's all this utter crap that's now reached stand-over proportions? With correct, safe guidance low risk, devastated families should now be re-connecting. There's not going to be any corona vaccine (11 mutations thus far) and by the time the politicians accept this horrible fact they are going to have to accept and put in place a facilitation pathway for the entire population, so why not do it now before any more mental and financial damage is done. You can only lock people up until they rebel and bust out, one way or another. Better to set up a facilitation agency than have the virus go rampant.
    KSS
    30th Sep 2020
    12:00pm
    Brissiegirl "Many people probably don't get tested because they don't want a stick rammed up their nose" this is an ignorant comment clearly bourne of the fact you have never had a test. This is the sort of irresponsible language that disuades people from being tested in the first place. Had you actually been tested you would know there is NO 'ramming' or 'forcing' done at all. Yes your throat and nasal passages are swabbed but it is not painful, or even mildly uncomfortable and it is over in about 10 seconds with no after effects.

    And the rapid tests are not as accurate as the swab test which is important when you are trying to get the transmission under control. A high rate of false negatives is far more dangerous than submitting to a nasal swab.

    The fact that you seem proud of your own refusal to be tested even when showing symptoms is a clear example of what Bonnie was saying in her post. There is absolutely no way for you to know whether your symptoms were a cold or not unless you were tested. It is completely irresponsible to claim otherwise.
    Brissiegirl
    30th Sep 2020
    1:18pm
    Dear KSS, I am not as accused, an irresponsible person. I self-isolated during my cold (no cough, no sore throat and no test under the circumstances) and if symptoms had worsened or not quickly disappeared, I would have been tested despite the discomfort. There was absolutely no logic for me to be tested. I have not been in any risk environment. I can tell you from people who have described the test personally, it is very unpleasant for some, as everyone has different physiology. A doctor friend had the test, saying it was "awful" and that the stick was "rammed" up her nose (possibly by someone less efficient than others).

    I think your criticism is directly rude e.g. "proud of your refusal to be tested". My tone is not one of pride in any way and there was no actual "refusal". Please try to be civil. How the tone of written comments is perceived is largely a reflection of readers' general disposition. I am interested in all opinions and experiences written here. Replies that arrogantly condemn commenters are an unfortunate and unpleasantly regular by-product of this forum. Best to stick to the facts, debate the questions, and leave personal rebuke out of it.
    KSS
    30th Sep 2020
    3:34pm
    And where did you get your degree in epidemiology Brissiegirl?
    tobymyers
    30th Sep 2020
    11:00am
    Well. you can't legislate against stupidity you are born that way , and that is why in life there are so many dumb people they are every where and I wonder how they managed to live this long .....................by accident ????
    Hirajima
    30th Sep 2020
    11:02am
    Sadly, some of them don't. But of course, natural selection is a powerful force.
    Franky
    30th Sep 2020
    12:03pm
    Yes, common sense has gone out the window..... it's worrying and sad to see
    Janus
    30th Sep 2020
    11:02am
    There is a sort of logic in not getting a test: Line up for hours, have an uncomfortable test, go directly home to isolate, can't shop, maybe lose work, maybe lose your job, maybe not have Covid and find out after several days of angst, all for maybe nothing, or maybe for isolating for weeks. Certainly lose money, friends, social contacts, and so on. Why would you do this?? (Plenty of reasons, but they might not be as high a priority)

    If you are young, thinking that only the oldies get sick, so who cares - if our government has the attitude of "Hurry up and die" then so do the young. When you were young (if you can remember that far back), did you worry about people in their later years? I suspect not...
    KSS
    30th Sep 2020
    12:08pm
    Sorry Janus your opinion of the process is not borne out by my experience of being tested TWICE. Yes you are told to go directly home to self isolate after getting the test and remain there until you get the result and you are even given masks to take with you. In the first test, I had to wait 48 hours, in the second case just 24 hours.

    You only have to self isolate for 14 days if you meet certain basic criteria: returning from overseas, a close contact of someone diagnosed with COVID, etc.... If you are just being responsible and being tested because you have symptoms, you do not have to continue to isolate after getting the test result.

    And even if you did have to isolate, there are now payments people can claim if they have no sick leave to cover the 14 day period.

    Everything you mention is nothing more than poor excuses for not doing the right thing. And in the event that the person is indeed infected they will be infecting others and causing far more 'inconvenience' to far more people. Just look at Victoria for a working example of that.
    Janus
    30th Sep 2020
    1:47pm
    Nothing I said was incorrect, if you read it properly. If you are lucky enough to have a permanent job with steady income, and a decent boss, all is OK, although money is still lost. If you are self employed, consulting, on contract, casual or other tenuous employment, then it might be goodbye job or goodbye clients. Have you thought of those that might live in rural/remote/regional areas, where things might take a little longer?

    There is no guarantee of security much anywhere, so for the young and insecure with a young family to support, there might be a decision to make.

    I agree that these are excuses, not reasons. They still exist, and we will all have to be patient with those who might not think the way many of us do. This little plague is with us for the long haul.
    tobymyers
    30th Sep 2020
    2:22pm
    Your just making excuses Janus and you sound very lazy . The young will pay the price in the future with a shorter life span and diseases including this virus resurrecting itself from within their bodies overpowering their weaken defenses as they age .
    They think they are smart now and bullet proof but hey didn't we all ,when we were young.
    Now with an older more mature brain many of us have improved their reasoning ability .
    Farside
    30th Sep 2020
    4:25pm
    KSS, fyi you can be told to isolate even after receiving a negative test result if symptoms continue. My wife is health care worker and was tested for eighth time on Sunday (result back 7AM Monday) and told to talk to GP for clearance before returning to work. But GP said no, and to retest on Wednesday (today) if symptoms persist (currently waiting for result).

    She had a few days wait for first test result back in April but since then she has usually had results back within 24 hours, a couple of times same day.
    Janus
    30th Sep 2020
    9:35pm
    tobymyers,
    Lazy I am not, just realistic. I just see things as they are, in my estimation, based on what we are allowed to see of course.

    Just check the infection rates for community transmission - mostly young people. Their level of decision making is not the same as ours, and they have different priorities. Nothing Wrong with that, and we were all there sometime in our lives. Serious selfishness is what nature (and their parents and society) has taught them. That's why there are so many humans; the concept works too damn well.
    KSS
    1st Oct 2020
    8:09am
    Farside, no one but particularly healthcare workers should be working when sick no matter what they are sick with! And more so when they have symptoms. That is just responsible even before COVID-19.
    Farside
    1st Oct 2020
    5:17pm
    KSS, my point was you said "isolate after getting the test and remain there until you get the result" when they can be told to continue isolation after receiving a result. Whether a person feels unwell will depend upon symptoms and severity.

    Do you really think people skip work when generally ok but not firing on all cylinders e.g. mild headache, tiredness etc. Btw, test came back negative.
    Franky
    30th Sep 2020
    12:17pm
    No, I haven't had the test and I wouldn't get one, and I'm not worried at all about being exposed to the virus. This is nature's way of culling the sick and unfit. For me death is nothing to fear, it's just part of life. This may sound callous, but we are increasingly destroying our planet and all life on it. We are part of nature and can't defeat or dominate it. The viruses are created by nature to deal with the changed environment, just as weeds are plants adapted to damaged soil. This should be a wake up call to all of us, we need to look after our planet earth and by doing that we safe ourselves. Use less pesticides, eat organic where possible, minimize our carbon footprint by driving less and walking more - all this will help nature and at the same time improve our own health so we don't have to worry about viruses. Statistics have clearly shown that people affected by the virus are the ones with existing health issues and the elderly, so let's take responsibility for ourselves and our environment. There is nothing to fear!
    Hirajima
    30th Sep 2020
    12:49pm
    Brave words, Franky. I hope you're prepared, though, not to die from the virus but to suffer for the rest of your life with one of many nasty conditions which are affecting far more people than are dying. Recent studies have shown that one in five who have the virus are getting heart damage, for example. Oh yes, all natural and nothing to fear. I'll avoid it if possible though, hehe.
    Janus
    30th Sep 2020
    1:53pm
    Thank heavens there are people like Franky about, happy to take one for the team! If I get it, can I send it on to you? Obviously you have nobody that you care for, or about, or friends, that might catch it from you after you get it.

    I do agree that the world is overpopulated, and humans need a cull. Problem is that it is not only the old, sick and weak that get infected and die with CV19, and it leaves a lot of problems.

    What we need is a quick illness that removes the stupid folk.
    Paddington
    30th Sep 2020
    1:56pm
    Fear is what keeps us safe and stops us going out and about especially here in Victoria. Some are still too stupid to be careful though and refuse to take care to protect others. Poverty is probably the main cause though where people eat wild animals that have the virus. Many healthy younger ones are being left with intolerable long term effects from having the virus like exhaustion and chest pain and inability to function at 100%. We have such a case in our family.
    tobymyers
    30th Sep 2020
    2:24pm
    Another very ignorant person I hope this comes back and bites you on your fat overweight arse .
    rtrish
    30th Sep 2020
    2:23pm
    I live in the ACT and fortunately no current cases. I have got tested twice, result negative. I have a big beef - it’s easy to get tested here if you have a car. There are several drive-throughs. But no testing centre in central Canberra for pedestrians/walk-ins. You can travel by public transport to a walk-in - not idea if you’re infectious. When I got tested, the GP gave me a referral to a pathology place closer to town. I still had to use public transport. It also meant I had to phone the place, check they’d received the referral. Then I went in, phoned them from across the street and they let me in; they told me when to arrive so they wouldn’t have other clients. I had to self-administer the test. The results took longer to come through, and I once had to chase up the results as I hadn’t heard back from the GP. All a huge palaver. Wouldn’t make me keen to do it all again.
    KSS
    30th Sep 2020
    3:40pm
    Seems like things run smoother in NSW. The first test I had was in a pop-up clinic waiting time about 10mins (it was considered a hot-spot at the time), and the second in a test centre and like you by appointment. In both cases I was notified the result by text. In my case both were negative like you but in the event of a positive test result, someone from NSW Health calls with the result and instructions. No need for a doctor in either case.
    Up front lady
    30th Sep 2020
    9:16pm
    I live in Tasmania. I have hay fever every year and my hay fever nasal spray stops my symptoms. Why should I get tested? Apparently there is no covid in Tasmania and there is very little testing going on.
    Dangerous? Maybe, or just realistic?
    Janus
    30th Sep 2020
    9:39pm
    Up front lady,
    As a Taswegian, I agree with you. Haven't had a test. No need to. they woul d send me away if I asked for one. Waste of time.

    I just hope they keep the borders closed for a bit longer, so that the third wave can hit NSW or somewhere else. We can survive on our own, unless the greedy folk (and that selfish dollar oriented PM we have) can knobble the pollies.
    Cobber
    1st Oct 2020
    8:56am
    Very worried that a CAB DRIVER (MAX CONTACT JOB) cheerfully relayed Trumps' line, "We should test less so we have less cases." A definition of ignorance in plain English usage terms.


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