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AbstractDuring the COVID-19 pandemic, national testing programmes were conducted worldwide on unprecedented scales. While testing behaviour is generally recognised as dynamic and complex, current literature demonstrating and quantifying such relationships is scarce, despite its importance for infectious disease surveillance and control. Here, we characterise the impacts of SARS-CoV-2 transmission, disease susceptibility/severity, risk perception, and public health measures on SARS-CoV-2 PCR testing behaviour in England over 20 months of the pandemic, by linking testing trends to underlying epidemic trends and contextual meta-data within a systematic conceptual framework. The best-fitting model describing SARS-CoV-2 PCR testing behaviour explained close to 80% of the total deviance in NHS test data. Testing behaviour showed complex associations with factors reflecting transmission level, disease susceptibility/severity (e.g. age, dominant variant, and vaccination), public health measures (e.g. testing strategies and lockdown), and associated changes in risk perception, varying throughout the pandemic and differing between infected and non-infected people.

Original publication




Journal article


Nature Communications


Springer Science and Business Media LLC

Publication Date