Experiences of supported isolation in returning travellers during the early COVID-19 response: A qualitative interview study

Holly Carter*, Dale Weston, Neil Greenberg, Isabel Oliver, Charlotte Robin, G. James Rubin, Simon Wessely, Louis Gauntlett, Richard Amlot

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
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Objectives (1) To understand the experiences and perceptions of those who underwent supported isolation, particularly in relation to factors that were associated with improved compliance and well-being; (2) to inform recommendations for the management of similar supported isolation procedures. Design We carried out a qualitative study using semistructured interviews to capture participants' experiences and perceptions of supported isolation. Data were analysed using the framework approach, a type of thematic analysis that is commonly used in research that has implications for policy. Setting Telephone interviews carried out within approximately 1 month of an individual leaving supported isolation. Participants 26 people who underwent supported isolation at either Arrowe Park Hospital (n=18) or Kents Hill Park Conference Centre (n=8) after being repatriated from Wuhan in January to February 2020. Results Six key themes were identified: factors affecting compliance with supported isolation; risk perceptions around catching COVID-19; management of supported isolation; communication with those outside supported isolation; relationship with others in supported isolation; and feelings on leaving supported isolation. Participants were willing to undergo supported isolation because they understood that it would protect themselves and others. Positive treatment by staff was fundamental to participants' willingness to comply with isolation procedures. Despite the high level of compliance, participants expressed some uncertainty about what the process would involve. Conclusions As hotel quarantine is introduced across the UK for international arrivals, our findings suggest that those in charge should: communicate effectively before, during and after quarantine, emphasising why quarantine is important and how it will protect others; avoid coercion if possible and focus on supporting and promoting voluntary compliance; facilitate shared social experiences for those in quarantine; and ensure all necessary supplies are provided. Doing so is likely to increase adherence and reduce any negative effects on well-being.

Original languageEnglish
Article number050405
Number of pages9
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: This study was funded by the National Institute for Health Research Health Protection Research Unit (NIHR HPRU) in Emergency Preparedness and Response (grant number 200890), a partnership between Public Health England, King’s College London and the University of East Anglia. DW, IO, CR and RA are supported by the NIHR HPRU in Behavioural Science and Evaluation, a partnership between Public Health England and the University of Bristol. CR is also supported by the NIHR HPRU in Emerging and Zoonotic Infections and NIHR HPRU in Gastrointestinal Infections.

HC, DW, IO, CR and RA are current employees of Public Health England. GJR participates in the UK’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies and its subgroups.

Open Access: This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to copy, redistribute, remix, transform and build upon this work for any purpose, provided the original work is properly cited, a link to the licence is given, and indication of whether changes were made. See: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

Publisher Copyright: © Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2021. Re-use permitted under CC BY. Published by BMJ.

Citation: Carter H, Weston D, Greenberg N, et al. Experiences of supported isolation in returning travellers during the early COVID-19 response: a qualitative interview study. BMJ Open 2021;11:e050405.

DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2021-050405


  • COVID-19
  • public health
  • qualitative research


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